A Journal of 1199SEIU May-June 2019
Paterson Scholarship Winners
We Support the Green New Deal
GOOD CARE . GOOD OUTCOMES . 1
RNs share their professional priorities.
See “The Work We Do” on pages 11-13.
20 On the Cover: Judith Ellis has been a pediatric nurse at Brookdale Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY for 32 years. See “The Work We Do” on pages 11-13. @1199seiu www.1199seiu.org 2
6 The President’s Column We can rewrite history.
11 The Work We Do Our Registered Nurses
7 Around The Regions Call to action for healthcare in East Brooklyn; Celebrating Basil Paterson Scholarship winners; Maryland passes HIV prevention bill; NYS law threatens pharmacy techs.
14 Contract Fights Two contract struggles highlight patient care issues 16 Union Power, Soul Power The 1969 strike in Charleston, SC helped form the Union we know today.
18 Labor Goes Green 1199ers are working against climate change. 20 Retired, But Active Annual banquet celebrates those who built our Union. 22 Housing Justice Workers are front and center in the struggle for affordability and fair rent laws.
1199 Magazine May-June 2019 Vol. 37, No. 3 ISSN 2474-7009 Published by 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East 310 West 43rd St. New York, NY 10036 (212) 582-1890 www.1199seiu.org
Editorial: Shaping the Future Honors Our Past We will not fight each other for crumbs while the powerful take the pie.
George Gresham secretary treasurer
1199 is unique in this world. Our Union was founded not only as a workers’ rights organization, but also as one of freedom fighters. Written into our Constitution is our mission to unite all people, regardless of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, national origin, or politics. Our founding document also demands we advance and defend all forms of civil rights and civil liberties and eliminate all forms of discrimination and racism. The right wing has tried to turn the label of social justice warrior on its head, but we wear it proudly. There are no so-called “snowflakes“ in 1199. Our history is proof. This year marks the 60th anniversary of our foundational organizing drive at seven New York City hospitals. The effort shed light on the living conditions of New York’s working poor and helped lift tens of thousands of hospital workers out of poverty. We’re also commemorating the historic 1969 hospital strike in Charleston, S.C., that with ’Union Power and Soul Power’ gave birth to our National Union and the 1199 we know today; and we’re marking the 50th anniversary of our Training Fund, which has helped hundreds of thousands of workers onto the ladder of success and better lives. None of these things came without struggle. The fights were led largely by people—mostly Black and Brown women—whose history is one of marginalization and discrimination. Yet they prevailed, in part because they understood their expansive and illuminating collective power. That is their legacy. So, we honor them by turning toward the stranger, by helping others stand up and be seen, and by striving for meaningful change, knowing no one will be free if we don’t continue the work of our forebears.
executive vice presidents
Jacqueline Alleyne Norma Amsterdam Yvonne Armstrong Lisa Brown Ruth Heller Maria Kercado Steve Kramer Joyce Neil Monica Russo Rona Shapiro Milly Silva Gregory Speller Veronica Turner-Biggs Laurie Vallone Estela Vazquez editor
Patricia Kenney director of photography
art direction & design Maiarelli Studio cover photography
Jim Tynan contributors
Mindy Berman JJ Johnson Erin Mei Sarah Wilson
Whether it’s the fight for workers’ rights, racial justice, LGBTQ rights, environmental justice, housing justice or gender equality, we 1199ers must affirm our dedication to unity and our refusal to be picked apart. Our union may have grown in size and reach since 1969, but our spirit and our mission—which have always been ahead of their time—are very much the same. We will support each other and stand up for each other. We will not fight each other for crumbs while the powerful take the pie.
1199 Magazine is published six times a year—January/ February, March/ April, May/June, July/ August, September/ October, November/ December—for $15.00 per year by 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East, 310 W. 43 St, New York, NY 10036. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to 1199 Magazine, 310 W. 43 St., New York, NY 10036.
1199 Magazine 3
1199SEIU NJ: It was 4 years ago today, April 15, 2015, that we launched the #FightFor15 movement in New Jersey. Back then we were told it was impossible, but yet...here we are. #WhenWeFightWeWin! w/ Workers United, an SEIU affiliate & New Labor.
@1199MASS: On Tuesdays we wear purple (actually every day but today is Tuesday). Check out 1199 members at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital showing their purple pride as they bargain to maintain good jobs and improve quality care.
@1199SEIU: Congratulations to our union sisters & brothers on their victory at Stop & Shop! After an 11-day strike, on Sunday they won tentative agreements, including pay raises & continued health care & pensions. #WhenWeFightWeWin #1u
1199SEIU: We remember two great friends of 1199, legendary actors and civil rights activists Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis. A Manhattan intersection was renamed in their honor this week. #TBT #UnionStrong #1u
@1199SEIU: It’s #NationalPetDay! Send us a picture of your pet in 1199 swag and we’ll pick the cutest ones!
1199SEIU NJ: It is a real injustice that hardworking caregivers at Alaris Health at Boulevard East nursing home here in Guttenberg, NJ, aren’t able to afford health insurance for their children because Alaris’ plan is outrageously expensive. We’re letting the community know that Alaris can no longer put their quest for profit before good jobs and quality care! #ContractNow #HonkForJustice.
RT: IATSELOCAL764: VP Vangeli Kaseluris & Assistant Biz Rep. Margaret LaBombard with @Local_802_AFM President Adam Krauthamer & @LocalOneIATSE John Kelly at today’s rally supporting http://www. chicagosymphonymusicians. com/ #802strong #CSOstrike #UnionStrong
Let’s hear from you. Send your letters to: 1199 Magazine, 330 W. 42nd St, 7th Fl., New York, NY 10036, Attn: 1199 Magazine, Editor; or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put “Letters” in the subject line of your email.
@1199SEIU_MDDC: The 2019 Nurses Gala is in full swing. This year we are celebrating the well deserved retirement of Debbie Wilkes, and her 43 years of service and dedication as a NICU Nurse at Prince George’s Hospital. #1199seiumddc #1199seiunursesgala2019 #nursesweek
1199SEIU WESTCHESTER: Scott, a radiology tech, used to be an “at-will” employee at AMC. Health insurance for his growing family wasn’t affordable. Today, he has the same job at Putnam Hospital, and an 1199 contract with excellent health benefits. Learn more about 1199 health benefits at: respectusamc.org/ learnmore
EXPLORE Look for this
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For Mother’s Day this year, we heard from 1199SEIU “kids“ about how their mother’s Union membership made their lives better.
“Every day is a chance for me to make a difference in someone’s life. My grandmother instilled in me [the importance of] striving for excellence and making a difference in people’s lives.  allowed for opportunities in education, that if you chose them, can help communities by focusing on nursing excellence and helping people realize they have a part in their own wellbeing.“ —1199er Benetta Gipson, Assistant Head Nurse at Brookdale Medical Center in Brooklyn. She and her siblings were raised by her late grandmother Charlotte Lee, a dedicated 1199er and an LPN at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. (For more about Ms. Gipson, see “The Work We Do“ on pages 11-13.)
“My mom is super proud to be in the Union and enjoys working as a surgical technician. It’s a good union job that enables her to have weekends off so we can spend quality time together. And one of the benefits of her job is a tuition remission program, so I am able to attend my dream school, the University of Miami, for free!” —Jasmine Mompoint, daughter of Karline Mompoint, Surgical Technician at UHealth Tower in Miami.
“I grew up with her bringing me to Mount Sinai. She used to bring me to the picket lines, and they called me a union baby. Because of her, we got scholarships and went through the summer jobs training program.“ —1199er Felix Quinones, Mount Sinai ER Supply Coordinator in Manhattan, with his mother Edith, who retired from Mount Sinai in 2007. Felix’s younger sister Debbie is a radiological technologist at Mount Sinai and his younger brother Michael is a coder at the institution.
“Everything the Union had to offer she participated in, whether it was a kids’ party or discount tickets to the circus. She also never walked a picket line alone. Whenever she went to one she took her children or grandchildren with her.” —1199er Sandra Chisolm, PCT at MidHudson Regional Hospital in Poughkeepsie, NY. Her late mother, Emily Keating, was an LPN and delegate at Shorefront geriatric Jewish Center in Brooklyn for 33 years. 1199 Magazine 5
We Can Rewrite History But only if we fill out our voter registration forms first. The President’s Column by George Gresham
It’s time for change. And we begin by getting out to register the biggest army of progressive, worker-friendly voters in history. Are you ready? 6
With next year’s Presidential and Congressional elections, everything we’ve achieved, hold dear, and hope for our children is at stake. So when members ask what’s the most important thing they can do to protect themselves and their families, I answer, “register to vote.” If you’re already registered, register every eligible member of your family, then register your co-workers, neighbors, those you worship with—just register everyone you know. You might be surprised to learn that there’s no amendment in the U.S. Constitution that specifically gives you the right to vote. It’s an 18th century document adopted and written by founding fathers, who were exclusively white, male property owners whose property included other human beings bound in chains. (There were no founding mothers.) The centuries-long struggle to gain universal suffrage is ongoing and has cost hundreds of thousands of lives. In 1861, Southern slaveowners declared war on the United States. Four years later, that war ended with the dead numbering some 630,000 (or the equivalent of 6.3 million in today’s population.) That was just part of the cost of ending slavery and enacting the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, which among other things held that persons born in the United States had citizenship rights and could not be denied the right to vote based on race, color or previous condition of servitude. In the Reconstruction years following the U.S. Civil War, newly emancipated Black men (women would not secure the right to vote for another 60 years) together with their white allies, elected hundreds of African-Americans to public office, including to Congressional seats representing areas in the former Confederacy. But that progressive period was short-lived. Former owners of slave
plantations conspired to violently overthrow Reconstruction Era gains. With Ku Klux Klan nightriders who terrorized Southern Black communities, firebombings of entire neighborhoods, mob violence, and lynchings, they spawned Jim Crow laws that would last for generations. Though slavery was forbidden under law, Southern land barons imprisoned tens of thousands of emancipated slaves to serve as a prison labor workforce. (Louisiana’s notorious Angola Penitentiary has its roots in this travesty.) For decades, Jim Crow and Klan terror prevented Black Southerners from even attempting to vote, even as other groups made progress. In 1919, the 19th amendment secured voting rights for white women. But it wasn’t until the 1950’s and 60’s that the Civil Rights Revolution, with thousands of children and elders defying police dogs and fire hoses, compelled passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Southern Black women and men could finally take their rightful place among the country’s voting public. But let’s not pretend this marked a sudden, easy embrace of democracy. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act’s enforcement provisions and opened the gates to a national wave of voter suppression efforts. Last year, Georgia’s Secretary of State removed 600,000 mostly African American voters from the state’s rolls. Not coincidentally, he was also the Republican candidate for Governor, running against progressive AfricanAmerican Democrat Stacey Abrams. To nobody’s surprise he was elected, though Abrams nearly beat him despite the wholesale theft. And so it goes. The efforts to disenfranchise poor and minority voters are endless. Two million incarcerated men and women—the world’s largest prison
population—cannot vote. Puerto Ricans on the island are ineligible to vote for president and have no congressional representation. Residents of majority-black Washington, D.C., with half again as many voters as the largely white state of Wyoming, have no senators or congresspersons. Sparsely populated, majority white states in the rural west each have two U.S. Senators, the same as populous states like California and New York. But all this suppression, theft and disenfranchisement are lastditch attempts to stop the future. The U.S. Census projects that by 2045, whites will be a minority of the country’s population. That can no more be prevented than holding back the waves of the Pacific Ocean. To be clear: The white nationalism that dominates the White House and the modern Republican Party is only the most recent manifestation of the long illness infecting our country from its inception. To succeed, elites have always employed the age-old trick of convincing some white workers that their interests are best advanced not in unity with workers of color but by identifying with the same people who deny them fair pay, health care, education and retirement security. Our union, founded by white Jewish workers, is a united multiracial, multinational political power precisely because we have refused to fall into the traps of racism, xenophobia and misogyny. But we’re only powerful to the extent that we exercise our power. Right now, we’re living with a political crisis of emergency proportions. We are 450,000 strong, with perhaps two million family members, and our country needs all of us. It’s time for change. And we begin by getting out to register the biggest army of progressive, workerfriendly voters in history. Are you ready?
Around the Regions
Florida Maryland Massachusetts New Jersey New York Washington, D.C.
Hudson Valley Workers Build Union Strength New collective bargaining agreements at Vassar Brothers Medical Center and Orange Regional Medical Center are a demonstration of increasing worker power in New York’s Hudson Valley. Vassar Brothers Medical Center’s main campus in Poughkeepsie, NY has been home to a sizeable 1199SEIU bargaining unit since the 1980s. More recently, Vassar Brothers workers continued to lead by example with a new contract, signed in May, that covers the institution’s OR schedulers as well as workers from Vassar’s Heart Center, DRA Imaging, and HealthQuest laboratory, for a total of more than 925 new 1199 members. The agreement includes annual raises and full coverage under the 1199SEIU National Benefit and Pension, Training and Upgrading, and Job Security Funds. Cheryl Harrison, a front desk rep at DRA Imaging, was not going to waste any time using her new benefits. “I’m planning to use the Training Fund immediately. It’s never too late, and I’ve always wanted to be an X-ray tech,” said Harrison. Sheila Ennist, a Vassar PCT and a longtime 1199 delegate, says the contracts improve lives while opening the door to organizing for more healthcare workers “We want to ensure that everyone at Vassar and in our region has the benefits that come with being an 1199 member,” said Ennist. Union membership and strength are also growing farther north, on the sprawling campus of Orange Regional Medical Center (ORMC), which is now part of the Greater Hudson Valley Health System. Formed a decade ago by the merger of Arden Hill Hospital and Horton Medical Center, today’s ORMC is part of the Greater Hudson Valley Health System (GHVHS). The institution includes ORMC’s main Middletown campus, Catskill Regional Medical Center’s (CRMC) Harris and Callicoon campuses, and several outpatient facilities. GHVHS workers also settled a landmark collective bargaining agreement in May. During contract talks, members continued to push management with walk-ins, purple days and the formation
Workers from Orange Regional Medical Center, which is part of the Greater Hudson Valley Health System, settled a landmark contract in April.
of United GHVHS. Those efforts eventually helped win an agreement that includes three percent raises, increased minimums and coverage under the 1199SEIU Training and Child Care Funds. Longtime 1199 members at ORMC and CRMC maintained existing coverage under the 1199SEIU National Benefit and Pension Fund, while new members at the institution’s outpatient clinics won major improvements to their current healthcare coverage and a contract provision to negotiate coverage under the 1199SEIU National Benefit Fund in 2022. ORMC Lab Technologist Maria Biblis was happy with the new agreement, adding that the spirit goes well beyond what’s on paper. “As 1199 members, my co-workers and I finally got the administration to understand how critical our work is,” said Biblis. “I feel like they value our work now, and they proved that by increasing minimum rates and professional steps, to help recruit and retain staff.”
Some of the 925 workers at Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, NY who joined 1199SEIU this spring.
“My co-workers and I finally got the administration to understand how critical our work is.” Maria Biblis, ORMC Lab Technologist
NJ Members Rally For Safe Staffing Bill Hundreds of 1199SEIU members rallied outside the New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton on May 6 to demand passage of legislation that provides staffing quotas for nursing homes. The bill, A383, calls for minimum staffing ratios and limits the number of residents that can be assigned to a CNA on any given shift. The bill made significant progress before stalling in the New Jersey Assembly. 1199 Magazine 7
Around the Regions
Maryland Wins Youth Focused HIV Prevention Law After months of testimony and support from a coalition led by 1199SEIU, Maryland lawmakers passed a bill in April allowing doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe to minors, without requiring parental consent, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a drug that helps prevent the transmission of HIV. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan let the bill become law by not using his veto power. Advocates say the new law will dramatically extend lifespans, particularly those of young Black men living in poverty. According to the Maryland Department of Health, about 74 percent of new
NYS RNs Lobby for Full Team Safe Staffing
HIV diagnoses are among Black youth. On average, three people are diagnosed with HIV in Maryland every day. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Maryland has the nation’s second highest lifetime risk of HIV infection. Advocates believe the legislation will be of particular benefit to young people who don’t feel comfortable discussing sexual activity with their parents or guardians. “I treat teens who need the protection of PrEP to save their lives,” said Dr. Raymona Smith, an 1199 member at Baltimore’s Chase-Brexton Clinic. “Without this medicine, entire communities are at risk for an increased incidence of HIV disease. u 1199 RNs head in to visit with legislators at May 14 Lobby Day in Albany.
Busloads of 1199SEIU RNs headed to Albany on May 14 to press legislators for their support of full team safe staffing. Nurses spoke with legislators about the necessity of staffing levels that promote a team approach to patient health care and emphasized with legislators the importance of a spectrum of caregivers in the healthcare setting. Nurses discussed the high turnover and mandatory overtime affecting their profession and educated lawmakers about the need for team nursing and appropriate acuity levels among patient populations. “It’s not only RN patient ratios that matter,” says retired RN Deb Friedland. “If we don’t have a full care team, we end up doing extra and not being able to focus on patient care.” 8
As a provider, when I must inform an adolescent that he or she is HIV positive, it’s a sleepless night for me, and I can’t imagine the impact on them.” PrEP consists of a single pill called Truvada, which is taken every day. Truvada can reduce by 90 percent the risk of becoming infected with sexually-transmitted HIV; among intravenous drug users the risk is reduced by 70 percent, according to the CDC. “While working as a therapist at Chase-Brexton for over five years, I have witnessed the emotional impact on a young person who is newly diagnosed with HIV and the stigmas that often come with it,” said 1199 delegate Stacey Jackson-Roberts, a therapist and clinical social worker at Chase-Brexton. “I have also seen the significant difficulty that many young people face in accessing preventative care, particularly having conversations with their parents or guardians about their sexual health. It is ideal that these conversations occur before HIV prevention medication is prescribed, but either way, social workers like me would still strive to do it after the fact. Protecting patients’ lives is most urgent, followed by fostering a strong support network of family and mentors.” It is estimated that more than 50 percent of youth living with HIV in Maryland remain undiagnosed, which dramatically increases their risk of infecting others. Maryland joins 17 other states who have passed similar legislation.
1199SEIU members Dr. Raymona Smith (far right) and Stacey JacksonRoberts (center) and Maryland State Senator Dr. Clarance Lam testifying before the Maryland state legislature in support of new HIV prevention law.
“I treat teens who need the protection of PrEP to save their lives.”
Pharmacy Technicians Fighting For Their Jobs Under New York State law, hospital pharmacy technicians have for decades been allowed to mix batches of medication under the direction of a licensed pharmacist. Now, the NYS Department of Education and the Board of Pharmacy have changed course and declared they need additional legal authority to allow pharmacy technicians to do this work. This move threatens technicians’ jobs. 1199ers, working with a coalition of professional associations of pharmacists and hospitals, are advocating for legislation which would explicitly allow certified pharmacy technicians to mix and compound medications in hospitals. The new law would protect quality of care through the new certification standard, while grandfathering experienced technicians who have already been doing the work. The Union’s pharmacy committee met at 1199’s Manhattan headquarters on May 1 to discuss the legislation and a plan of action, which included a trip to Albany to lobby legislators on May 7th. Suhail Kahn, a pharmacist at LIJ-Forest Hills Hospital, said it was vital for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to work together to address the problem. “Without getting this passed, pharmacy technicians won’t have jobs because right now there is no standard. People need to understand what that means,” said Kahn, an 1199ers for over three decades. “Sometimes workers are more afraid of taking a test than they are of what could happen if they don’t. We have to make sure members understand how important this is.”
1199ers at the April 27 summit to discuss health and economic issues facing East Brooklyn.
One Brooklyn: Summit Calls for Unity and Action
Pharmacy Committee members met May 1 at Union headquarters in NYC to discuss changing NYS law to protect hospital pharmacy techs.
Kim Wessels Photo
Together with Brookdale Hospital, the NYC Department of Health and the One Brooklyn Health System, 1199 hosted a summit on April 27 to educate and mobilize East Brooklyn’s communities around health care and economic justice. Joining the East Brooklyn Call to Action for Health and Economic Justice, which was held at P.S. 165 in Brownsville, were Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, NYS Assembly member Latrice Walker and NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. The event included panel discussions on four major issues: premature mortality, health and housing, workforce development, and food and fitness. Heard from were 1199SEIU EVP Joyce Neil, 1199SEIU Training and Employment Funds (TEF) Executive Director Sandi Vito, One Brooklyn Health CEO LaRay Brown, and NYC Department of Health Assistant Commissioner Dr. Torian Easterling. Conversations centered on the pressures of gentrification, health disparities and the proliferation of conditions leading to asthma and hypertension, and job creation. Panelists emphasized the need to make available healthy fresh food and health information and the holistic approach to community building that includes economic, emotional and physical health. “Safe, affordable housing is the best prescription you can get for health care,” said One Brooklyn leader LaRay Brown. 1199TEF’s Sandi Vito emphasized the importance of quality, community-based jobs. “We can’t just think about job creation; we also have to think about how we can improve existing jobs and make them high-paying and connect our communities with them,” she said. 1199 Magazine 9
Around the Regions
Kim Wessels Photo
NYC Members Screen Candidates
Celebrating Paterson Scholarship Winners The Union, Funds and management came together in 1199’s Cherkasy Davis Conference Center on April 17 to celebrate winners of the 2019 Basil Paterson Scholarship. The program is named for 1199’s great friend, labor lawyer Basil A. Paterson. Mr. Paterson, an attorney for nearly five decades, spent 20 years as counsel for 1199SEIU and was a tireless advocate for homecare workers. He also served as Secretary of State of New York under Gov. Hugh Carey and Deputy Mayor of New York City under Mayor Ed Koch. The Paterson Scholarship is available to eligible members covered by the Home Care Education Fund, which administers the annual labor/management prize. The scholarship provides tuition and financial support to homecare workers enrolled in college and allied health certification programs. Awards are based on a competitive review process and may be used to pay for up to 9 credits per semester. The scholarship includes a cash stipend each academic term providing resources to cover tuition and college fees, transportation, child-care expenses and, where applicable, the cost of review courses for licensing exams. This year’s winners are: Abigail Frimpong, Bohdanna Kudryk, Cruzita Jones, Dalia Barbos, Florence Eddie, Gwyneth Jack, Odile Pamphile, Shevourne Joseph, Sixtus Onyeche and Stacey FlemmingGreene. For more information about the program, contact Frances Sadler at Frances.Sadler@1199Funds.org. 10
Basil Paterson Scholarship winners at April 17 celebration.
The scholarship provides tuition and financial support to homecare workers enrolled in college and allied health certification programs.
Over the last several months 1199SEIU members in New York City have met with candidates running for local office. At press time, candidates seeking New York City Council seats in Brooklyn as well as the District Attorney position in the Bronx and Queens attended events where they answered questions and addressed the concerns of residents. Though the meetings did not necessarily guarantee an endorsement, members were enthusiastic about the promotion of transparency and political education. Leah Holland, an LPN at Brooklyn Gardens Nursing and Rehab Center, said the information and exposure to candidates is particularly important for local races. Holland attended the late April screening event for Queens District Attorney candidates. “The events give you the opportunity to learn what’s really happening in your community and communities throughout the city,” said Holland. “I was really grateful for that experience.”
THE WORK WE DO BROOKDALE MEDICAL CENTER’S REGISTERED NURSES
1. “I started as a student nurse when they had a summer program for young people and when that ended, I worked as a nurse’s aide; I started on nights on the pediatric floor and eventually went over to the HIV unit in the nursing home,” says pediatric ICU RN Shirlian Jaggon. Jaggon earned her nursing degree at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus while working at Brookdale.
1199SEIU represents over 700 Registered Nurses at Brooklyn’s Brookdale Medical Center and its associated longterm care facility, the Shulman and Schachne Institute. Brookdale nurses established themselves as among the most stalwart voices for nurses and patients with their successful 1977 organizing drive and strike. The institution remains one of New York City’s busiest safety net hospitals. As they have always done, Brookdale nurses provide compassionate, excellent care for some of the city’s poorest and sickest residents
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THE WORK WE DO BROOKDALE MEDICAL CENTER’S REGISTERED NURSES
2. Nursing runs in the family of Benetta Gipson, Assistant Head Nurse at Brookdale’s Shulman and Schachne Institute. Her late grandmother, Charlotte Lee, was an LPN at Montefiore Hospital. “She instilled in me [the importance of] striving for excellence and making a difference in people’s lives,” says Gipson. (For more about Ms. Gipson's family, see page 5.) 3. Carla Smith has been an RN in Brookdale’s Emergency Department for a little over a year. “You get so much experience working in this hospital,” she says. “Everyone and everything comes through the door of the ED; they may not make it upstairs, but they come in our doors.” 4. Yanira Tajada has been an RN on Brookdale’s Labor and Delivery Unit for three years. She started at the hospital as a medical assistant and eventually pursued nursing through the Union’s Training and Upgrading Fund. “The most satisfying part of this job is helping patients and seeing babies be born. The hardest things are the losses,” she says. “It’s tough getting through the grieving and helping patients through the loss.”
5. When Shulman and Schachne RN Aminata Sesay came to the U.S. from Sierra Leone 17 years ago, she knew she wanted to be a nurse and began volunteering at Brookdale. Today, she’s three classes away from her BSN. “I was raised by my grandmother and grandfather, who taught me about hard work,” she says. “After I have my BSN, I want to go on to my master’s and become a nurse educator or case manager.”
6. Judith Ellis has been a Brookdale RN for 32 years. “I normally work on the Pediatric floor, but I help out [on the Pediatric ICU]. I have always loved children. Sometimes this job is hard, and you must try not to get too emotionally attached, but you have to have empathy for every situation.” 7. Shulman and Schachne Institute LPN George Acquaah studied to be an accountant but decided to move into health care and began working as a nursing home CNA. At press time, he was close to finishing up his studies to become an RN.
“Sometimes this job is hard, and you must try not to get too emotionally attached, but you have to have empathy for every situation.”
— Judith Ellis, Brookdale RN
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CONTRACT FIGHTS Workers struggle to balance workloads with patient care.
1199ers are hitting the streets with their struggles to balance patient care and management demands. Healthcare workers at Blue Hills Health and Rehabilitation Centre in Stoughton, MA held an informational picket April 4 to voice concerns about management policy's impact on patients and to press Blue Hills owners to settle a fair contract. Blue Hills workers have been in negotiations for almost a year, but so far management has been unwilling to compromise on key issues. Among concerns is management’s lack of understanding of staff workloads, chronic staff underpayment and the related unwillingness to increase wages to match experience levels. 14
The contract struggle follows a major turnaround at Blue Hills, which was led in part by the institutions’ workers. State inspectors cited the home for 17 deficiencies and workers immediately began implementing changes. The effort yielded a five-star rating for the facility, but when contract negotiations rolled around, management turned a blind eye to workers’ contributions and the clear necessity of a skilled workforce. “We’re proud of the care we provide to our patients, proud of the facility’s turnaround and we’ll continue to fight for a strong voice on the job,” said Rose Pierre, a CAN at Blue Hills. “We’re advocating for a fair
Workers at Blue Hills Rehab in Stoughton, MA at at their April 4 informational picket. Blue Hills workers say owners’ policies negatively impact patients and employees.
Workers at Long Island Community Hospital have been engaged in a months-long contract fight at the institution.
contract that reflects the dedication of staff that we work so hard to care for. And at Long Island Community Hospital in Patchogue, NY workers held an informational picket March 13 to press management for a collective bargaining agreement. Several busloads of 1199ers from NYC and Long Island joined the picket line to help turn up the volume. Long Island Community workers, who last year voted to join 1199 in spite of a fierce anti-union campaign by management, are seeking a first contract with livable wages, affordable health insurance and provisions that address safe staffing and its
connection to quality care. 1199ers at Long Island Community have faced a constant barrage of obstacles from management throughout contract talks and their organizing drive. Workers have done everything possible to settle a fair agreement. Still, bosses refuse to discuss reasonable demands. “Many of us haven’t had a raise in years; meanwhile, they are trying to raise our health insurance costs,” said phlebotomist Marcela Vasquez, a negotiating committee member. “It feels like a slap in the face. We are living paycheck to paycheck and it’s like they don’t care. They show up to negotiations unprepared and don’t take us seriously.”
1199ers vowed to take to the streets as often as necessary to win a contract. And promised to keep bringing more and more of their Union sisters and brothers with them. “Our staffing conditions are not good at all. A lot of times there is one aide on the floor and they expect high results. It’s impossible,” said CNA Babette Hayes. “We need to keep getting out there and showing them what we can do. Our CEO makes almost $1 million dollars a year and I have to work two jobs. All we want is a decent salary and good benefits so we can take care of ourselves.”
“Many of us haven’t had a raise in years; meanwhile, they are trying to raise our health insurance costs.” – Marcela Vasquez, a negotiating committee member
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An 1199 Strike That Shook Up the South 50 years ago, 1199 merged union power and soul power.
Fifty years ago, in the spring of 1959, some 450 workers at two Charleston, South Carolina, hospitals struck for more than three months for 1199 protection and recognition. The strikers, all African American and 90 percent women, worked at the Medical College Hospital of the University of South Carolina (MCH) and at the smaller Charleston County Hospital. The strike, called by the newly-formed Local 1199B, was precipitated by the blatantly harsh treatment and the unjust firing of 12 women at MCH. True to its history as a center of the slave trade and where secessionists fired the first shots of the Civil War, African Americans in Charleston at the time were socially and politically marginalized. Not a single Black elected official served
"I have no regret. We changed things at the hospital, and today younger people are taking over.”
in the state and just a few held city posts. And South Carolina was one of only two states in which less than 60 percent of eligible African Americans were registered to vote. Employers in the state touted its low wages and low union density. The wages of at least half the Black population fell below the official poverty line. MCH workers earned a meager $1.30 an hour.
Workers picketing during the 1969 strike at two hospitals in Charleston, SC were confronted by police and national guardsman. Charleston strikers made labor history and, with union power and soul power, laid the foundations for the 1199 we know today.
Led by one of 12 fired workers, Mary Moultrie, an MCH nurse’s aide, who had previously worked in New York City as an LPN but whose credentials MCH management refused to accept. What distinguished the Charleston strike was the alliance of 1199 and the civil rights movement, led in Charleston by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which was in the midst of its Poor People’s Campaign. SCLC was led by the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, who took the reins of the organization a year earlier following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Although 1199 had a long history of involvement in civil rights, the Charleston campaign was the first in which it worked so closely with a civil rights organization and in which it so clearly framed the struggle as one of both union rights and civil rights. As 1199 put it, the Charleston strike was about union power and soul power. While SCLC focused on a community-based campaign of civil disruption, 1199 took charge of member mobilization and the coordination of publicity and national labor and political support. In addition to Rev. Abernathy, SCLC’s Andrew Young, who would later serve as Atlanta’s mayor and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, played a prominent role in the campaign. Local activists such as Esau Jenkins, Bill Saunders and unionist Isaiah Bennett were also key supporters. As in other civil rights
campaigns, students and other young activists were indispensable. Said Moultrie, “It was the students who did the most to help us win the strike.” But the women were at the center of the strike campaign. Moultrie, who had ties with both the traditional and more radical activists refused to be cowed. “We are sick and tired of being sick and tired,” she declared, echoing civil rights champion Fannie Lou Hamer. She and the other women were inspired by veterans such as South Carolina’s Septima Clark and Alabama’s Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King, Dr. King’s widow and honorary chairperson of 1199’s national union. Said Mrs. King at a Charleston rally, “$1.30 an hour is not a wage, it is an insult.” She added that “the Black working woman in our nation is perhaps the most discriminated against.” “The strike certainly raised my consciousness as a Black woman,” says Louise Brown, one of the 12 who were fired. Today, she’s active in struggles for better transportation, affordable housing, the Fight for $15 and the Poor People’s Campaign. She was among the more than 10,000 marchers at the 1969 Mother’s Day at which more than 100 were arrested, including Rev. Abernathy and 1199 President Leon Davis. After that the situation grew more tense. SCLC led an economic boycott of local businesses and disruptions at local stores. Demonstrations continued throughout the key business districts often in the presence of National Guard troops in riot gear and with bayoneted rifles. Ultimately, the administration of President Richard Nixon was forced to intervene. With Andrew Young leading negotiations, an agreement was hammered out. It included the reinstatement of the 12 fired workers, a wage increases of between 30 to 70 cents an hour and a grievance procedure. But as in New York City 10 years earlier when 1199 won its hospital organizing
campaign, union recognition was left unresolved. The workers never won union recognition, but they say the strike was by no means a failure. Black workers finally began to be treated with respect, partially out of fear. African Americans were elected to the state legislature and in the next decade Black representation in Charleston’s City Council jumped from one to six. For 1199 nationally, the struggle helped to emphasize the important interconnections of race, class and gender. “Charleston gave birth to the movement to organize healthcare workers across the country,” says Henry Nicholas, a key 1199 organizer in Charleston and president of 1199C in Philadelphia. Management at Johns Hopkins, for example, agreed to 1199 recognition out of fear of another Charleston. “I have no regrets,” says Naomi White, a Charleston striker. We changed things at the hospital and today younger people are taking over.” One of those younger activists is Millicent Traeye Middleton, the daughter of striker Hermina B. Traeye after whom a nursing home on St. John’s Island was named. Middleton, the youngest of Hermina Traeye’s nine children, has been working to complete her mother’s tasks. “Today, too many have lost their way and are looking for something to hold onto,” Middleton says. She is a former pastor and the coordinator of South Carolina’s Sea Island Democrats. One of her sisters, Wilma Drayton, recalls being hauled onto a bus and being detained in a stadium for participating in a youth demonstration during the strike. “Our mother taught us to judge people on their character,” she says. “She never taught us to hate.” Says Middleton, “The race is not finished, but we are picking up the baton and running with it.”
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THERE ARE NO JOBS ON A DEAD
1199SEIU endorses the Green New Deal. In the labor movement, as across the rest of society, acceptance of climate change and its effects has been a mixed bag. But increasingly frequent catastrophic weather events along with a drumbeat of urgency from the scientific community are generating new awareness. A growing and diverse movement is calling for clean energy production, environmental and health justice, and a renewed dedication to the health of people, plants and animals. And 1199 has amplified its calls for a just transition to a more sustainable economy with an endorsement of the Green New Deal (GND), a set of initiatives which aims to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid the worst consequences of climate chaos, create millions of good jobs and address economic inequality and racial injustice by prioritizing historically disenfranchised communities. November’s Democratic victory in the House of Representatives is driving fresh national momentum around environmental justice, with 93 of the 235 House Democrats having signed on in support of the GND. The GND seeks to change the course set in 2017, when the Trump Administration began enacting environmentally threatening policies. That year, more than 2,000 members of 1199 traveled to Washington, D.C. for the People’s Climate March. Almitra Yancey, a Customer Service Liaison at the Montefiore Contact Center in
Tarrytown, NY, was one of the keynote speakers at the labor rally that day. “I live in Staten Island. We were badly hit by Hurricane Sandy, which caused many of my friends to be forced out of their homes for months on end,” she said. “It is people of color and indigenous communities who are overwhelmingly on the front line when it comes to the effects of climate chaos.” With scientists warning that superstorms like Sandy will happen with even greater frequency and ferocity, Yancey emphasized the importance of getting new, protective laws on the books in New York City. (Also part of that conversation are practical solutions that protect vital institutions like hospitals, so they can meet green standards and still continue to provide patient care safely.) “We really need to start taking climate change seriously,” said Yancey. In many states, laws are already being formulated to remodel economies around the principles of environmental justice. In Maryland, 1199 was part of the coalition behind the Clean Energy and Jobs Act. Phyllis Alexis, an RN at Prince George's Hospital in Cheverly, MD, for 20 years and an 1199 delegate, testified at the Maryland State Senate about the importance of passing the bill. “I see a definite increase in the incidence of asthma,” she said, “In the ICU where I work, we see people who have asthma and need to be
1199ers at 2017 Climate March in Washington, D.C.
It is crucial to get new laws on the books to ensure that emissions are drastically reduced for the sake of everyone’s health and to protect our communities from increasingly life-threatening storms.
ventilated 2-3 times a week, some even need to be intubated to keep their airways open.” Scientists have long recognized that pollution caused by producing, transporting and burning fossil fuels is directly related to an increased risk of asthma and other respiratory conditions. “Twenty years ago, we would only see severe asthma attacks about once every two weeks,” recalled Alexis. “So, I
definitely see an increase in the number of cases.” Susan Clarke, a Geriatric Nursing Assistant at Future Care Coldspring in Baltimore, MD, added that both her daughter and grand-daughter suffer from asthma. Clarke recently attended an event organized by the Labor Network for Sustainability and would like to see more solar panels in her area.
Maryland RN Phyllis Alexis says she has seen a dramatic increase in asthma cases at her hospital.
“I am learning the value of political action to make things happen for our community,” she added. To that end, 1199 has partnered in Baltimore with Civic Works Energy Advisors, who will send contractors to make recommendations for energy improvement services in members’ homes and help them to access grant to cover costs. See your organizer or delegate for more information.
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Retired, But Active!
Hundreds of 1199SEIU retirees gathered in Orlando, FL on April 16 to shake a tail feather and celebrate the Division’s growth. The Union’s Retiree Division represents over 60,000 retired but active members and is the Union’s fastest growing division. The event marked the inauguration of the Miami area George Gresham Chapter of the Retiree Division. “The luncheon is one of the greatest things,“ said Wendell James, who retired to Miami after working for decades in New York City. “I consider it like a family reunion. People who worked together years ago attend every year and look out for each other.” For more information about the Union’s Retiree Division and its chapters, go to www.1199seiubenefits.org. 20
Mortgaged into Homelessness Baltimore member’s victimization by banking predators fuels her activism. The Maryland/DC Division of 1199 recently threw a special housewarming party for Johns Hopkins floor tech Simone Hicks, who this spring moved into a new place after losing her family home to predatory lending. Making ends meet has never been easy for Hicks, but after her mother passed away in 1998 and she inherited her uncle’s house, she at least felt secure in her housing situation. But that all changed in 2006 when she was convinced by a representative of her local bank to take a loan she could not afford. “I thought the man in the bank had my best interests at heart, but he didn’t,” she explained. “He said I should take out a second mortgage, but when I wasn’t getting paid on time, I started to fall behind on the payments.” Like millions of other Americans, Hicks was convinced by a bank representative to borrow far more against her home than she could realistically pay back. These “predatory lending” practices were among the main drivers of the 2008 financial crisis. She ended up facing foreclosure on the house which had been in her family since 1956. The whole episode led to a downward spiral in her life. She was hospitalized in 2011 after suffering a nervous breakdown. When she came out of the hospital, Hicks recovered enough to get a job at Johns Hopkins in 2012, but her housing troubles were far from over. She began renting a room from an unscrupulous landlord whose brother was stealing her
rent money. Hicks was evicted and with no alternative and no savings, moved into a shelter. It would be another two years before she was able to earn enough to save for a deposit on a rented apartment. The fact that she was able to bargain a wage increase alongside her union sisters and brothers, which brought her pay to $14 an hour at Johns Hopkins, also helped. The experience motivated her activism in Maryland’s Fight for $15 campaign, which recently saw a $15 minimum wage signed into law. When the changes come into effect, they’ll give Hicks another small bump in her earnings and help millions of Maryland workers
“I thought the man at the bank had my best interests at heart, but he didn’t.”
Johns Hopkins floor tech Simone Hicks lost her home to predatory lenders.
who like her are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. “Being active in the union has given me a lot of confidence,” said Hicks. “I used to be kind of a wallflower and it has gotten me out of my shell. “I’m about to go to a demonstration to save a local hospital in DC that they want to close. If they shut it down people will have to drive all the way across town if their child has an asthma attack or they are having a heart attack. “I don’t like the way low-income people are being treated these days. I’m definitely on the side of the underdog.”
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MEMBERS FIGHT FOR HOUSING JUSTICE As rents rise and developers build luxury housing stock, workers struggle to keep up.
Safe and affordable housing is foundational for physical and mental health, affirmed a recent study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Yet across all 1199's regions, members are facing increasingly tight housing markets in which wages lag behind rent and other housing costs. That’s why members joined thousands of housing justice activists from across New York State at a rally in Albany on May 14 to urge lawmakers to reconsider the regulations for renters. With the NYS legislature in Democratic control and laws governing rent stabilization set to expire on June 14, activists believe it is the best chance they’ve had in years to enact tenant friendly reforms. The need for change is urgent, says Maureen Spillane, who works in environmental services at Albany Medical Center. She recently testified to that fact before the New York State legislature.
1199ers joined housing advocates from across NYS at May 14 rally in Albany.
housing vouchers by zip code. In New York City, as in Boston, the relationship between property-hungry luxury housing developers and residents who need affordable places to live has been tense for decades. Currently exacerbating the conflict in New York City is the crisis in the City’s Public Housing System and the flow of vast wealth into the city. Housing has long been a tinderbox in New York, affirms Nina Howes, an RN and former 1199 delegate at Mount Sinai Beth Israel. Howes was forced out of two apartments in succession on the Lower East Side and then another in Gramercy Park, near the hospital, as the rents shot up beyond what she could afford.
“Every month, I wonder if I’m going to have enough money to pay the rent.” — Kendorn Blackwood, Building Service Worker at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Brooklyn
“Even though I have done this job for 30 years, I cannot afford to pay the rent. My pay doesn’t go up, but rents get more expensive. “Every month, I wonder if I’m going to have enough money to pay the rent. I also have to buy food for my son and grandson. I don’t want to choose between food and paying the rent. That’s not fair,” she says.” Housing costs aren’t just a problem in large cities. Angela Marie is an 1199 Nursing Home worker from the Glen Falls area of Upstate New York. She is struggling to find affordable housing for herself and her children. “Why can’t I find a place big enough for us all? At this point we are all just miserable. I got money for the first month’s rent and security deposit, I’m gainfully employed. But I can’t afford $1,500 a month, which is what 3-4 bedrooms cost around here. This is insanity,” she says.
Givanni Blackwell, medical assistant at Boston Medical Center, is facing similar challenges in the Bay State’s exploding housing market. Blackwell is the single parent of three young children. Even though she’s eligible for affordable housing, the subsidies hardly go far enough as Boston-area rents skyrocket. After paying her rent she has barely anything left. “With the cost of living always on the rise I have a hard time paying rent, buying groceries and the bare necessities for my family. I’m left scraping up pennies and dimes. “The chances of saving a deposit to buy a home are slim to impossible. Gentrification is at an all-time high in communities where the residents are under the poverty level because there isn’t any cap on rent and no rent control in our communities,” she says. Massachusetts recently announced a plan to stem displacement by valuing
“Every month, I wonder if I’m going to have enough money to pay the rent. I also have to buy food for my son and grandson. I don’t want to choose between food and paying the rent. That’s not fair” –Maureen Spillane Albany Medical Center
Currently, it’s estimated that roughly three million people across New York State are renters, and almost half of them are considered rent-burdened, which means they are paying more than 30 per cent of their wages in rent. The crisis has led activists to call for a package of reforms known as universal rent control across the entire state. One of the biggest loopholes that advocates seek to close is a rule that allows landlords of rent stabilized apartments to impose significant rent hikes after making renovations. Tenant advocates say landlords abuse the provision so they can raise rents. Other landlords, notably the Trump Organization, have been accused of making unnecessary repairs to push up prices in rent stabilized housing. New York reformers want to see rent stabilization rules extended. Tenants and housing rights activists are pressing the fight on several fronts: at the state level, in city halls, and in community board meetings, where developers have to appear before their projects are approved. Antoinette Rose, a medical records analyst at Montefiore Medical Center, lives in the Bronx, N.Y. She attends local community board meetings to scrutinize development plans and encourages folks to get involved in the process, no matter where they live. “If the local community doesn’t get involved,” she said, “Before you know it, the mom-and-pop stores that have been there for years will be forced out and the only people who will be able to afford to live in decent buildings with gardens will be the rich.”
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NJ Members Stand Up for Safe Staffing New Jersey nursing home workers demonstrated in Trenton on May 6 to demand the passage of a safe staffing bill that has been stalled in the state’s Assembly for nearly a year. The bill would create minimum staffing rations for the 40,000 CNAs working in New Jersey. See “Around the Regions” on pages 7-10.
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1199 Magazine May / June 2019 Good Care. Good Outcomes.