1199 Magazine | May / June 2018

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A Journal of 1199SEIU May-June 2018

League contract negotiations begin. See page 12. 1

May-June 2018




@1199seiu www.1199seiu.org 2

May-June 2018

3 Editorial: Our movement is facing hard times, but we have been here before.

11 NJ May Day Massive turnout at Trenton’s #MarchFor OurPatients

6 The President’s Column MAGA means turning back the clock.

12 To Win This Fight We Must Unite Negotiations with the League of Voluntary Hospitals are underway.

7 Around the Regions Florida members fight for Puerto Rico; drug counselors discuss profession’s challenges; how right to work laws are lethal for unions and more.

15 NYU Community Meeting Workers and their supporters stand up to the NYC hospital giant. 16 Leaders In Training Education program is foundation of union-building.

18 The Work We Do A look back at our Registered Nurses and Laboratory Professionals. 21 New Organizing Healthcare workers vote union for themselves and their patients. 22 Politics Throughout the regions, election victories for 1199-endorsed candidates.

Editorial: 1199ers Are Facing Down Powerful Anti-Labor Forces “They’re coming hard at us so we have to be ready for whatever the fight is.” In his column this month, President Gresham reminds us that we are living through a particularly fraught period for labor. Between the ongoing destruction of protections by the current administration, the legislative onslaught against every gain we’ve made over the last decades, and employers’ leverage against workers in this poisonous environment, the situation seems bleak. “By the time you read this The Supreme Court will likely have handed down another anti-worker decision,” he writes. “In Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees the justices are expected to rule against school teachers, bus drivers, mail carriers, firefighters and other public workers, essentially declaring the public sector as right to work territory.” But he goes on to remind us that what we are seeing is nothing new. “We have faced hard times and hostile forces before, and we’ve prevailed,” says Gresham. For evidence of this, we need look no farther than the co-workers beside us or into the pages of this magazine. Our movement may be struggling, but 1199ers have not lost their voices in the face of attempted intimidation or crisis. Florida 1199ers have been among the Union’s most tireless activists on behalf of Puerto Rico. As the island recovers from the devastation of Hurricane Maria, 1199ers are continuing to press legislators for aid and relief from hedge fund raiders. Union members have been in the vanguard of raising awareness of the shocking posthurricane death toll of nearly 4,600 people — a number far greater than the official count of 64.

At NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, workers are standing up against a healthcare behemoth’s threats to their benefits. “As I watched many speakers passionately tell their stories…it just awoke something in me that can no longer be stilled,” writes NYU Radiology worker Vincent Maurice Crear. Thousands of members covered by the collective bargaining agreement with the League of Voluntary Hospitals (from which NYU recently withdrew) are moved by the same spirit as Mr. Crear. League members recently commenced negotiations facing a raft of complaints and demands

from management. The rattle of management sabers did not echo in members’ confidence. “This fight has just begun, and their tactics are nothing new,” said Tony Martinez, a special procedure tech at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City. And in New Jersey, 1199ers flooded the state capital in Trenton for a May Day rally to demand passage of a safe staffing bill that will protect the Garden State’s nursing home patients. So, yes, these are hard times for labor. They’re hard times for most progressively-minded people. But as Pres. Gresham says, “We win when we’re united…there ain’t no stopping us.”

1199 Magazine May-June 2018 Vol. 36, 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 president

George Gresham secretary treasurer

Maria Castaneda 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

Jim Tynan

art direction & design Maiarelli Studio cover illustration

Columbia Presbyterian workers sent a loud and clear message to management at their May 29 League contract walk in. 

Regina Heimbruch contributors

JJ Johnson Bryn Lloyd-Bollard Regina Heimbruch Erin Mei Ivettza Sanchez Sarah Wilson 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.

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Letters & Social Media

Our voice is a powerful thing and when one voice combines with another voice and another voice and another voice, the power to be heard becomes stronger and that power can change everything!

LABOR CHORUS RAVE REVIEW t is at night, all the way uptown, a long way from Coney Island; no, it is too much for me. But maybe I should. I went. The tension of the packed audience excited me. These people are my people. One by one, the chorus members stepped onto the stage, filling it. The performance began. Songs I had sung on many, many May Days, marches of protest, rallies for causes transported me to a place of energy, of beginning, and of resistance. The magnificence of the voices, the messages, and finally the joining of the chorus members with the audience. We all stood, held hands, swayed back and forth, singing with a hypnotic sense of oneness. The poem of belief that we shall, we will, we must “overcome”. My life is being “part of” until my last breath. Labor Chorus, you gave me the rest of my life. I treasure you.


Nettie Shulman Retiree, NYC LEAGUE MEMBER SAYS: WITH UNITY WE HAVE POWER! rothers and sisters, let’s be strong together in this fight before us. In the current strides we’re making towards securing our contract we should not be willing to allow our benefits to be attacked or adjusted. We need to be clear and realistic about what we really need moving forward. What we don’t need is division and separation, some of our shops are in disarray. A lot of members believe that the Union is not doing its part, but we are the Union. We are the main part of the puzzle, and with unity we have power. We need to educate members on what it took from 1932 until our present day to secure and maintain the benefits we currently have. As an 1199 baby, I experienced firsthand what it took to



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get what we have. My mother is a 50year member and retiree of the fight. She educated me. She stood strong in strikes, rallies and campaigns to help secure our future along with a lot of our grandparents, parents, sisters and brothers. We know that our Union is formed by families. We need to act like family and come together like family to fight for what’s most important—our contract! The boss should remember that we can be nice in negotiating but don’t think for one moment we won’t fight. I encourage all our members to read the history of our Union and be inspired by the fight. I read it and I was. Every 1199er can help shape the future for our families. We can be an addition to the history of our Union by doing what it takes to make history.

Reborn Bey Linen Handler, Brooklyn Hospital NYU MEMBER DERIDES GREED came to New York from Louisiana with two guides: a Bachelor’s Degree and the principles of morality taught to me by my parents and the community that raised me. I expected that I would be safe in the walls of NYU Langone Medical Center with health benefits and secure a pension congruent with executing my loyal service as a member of an esteemed team of caregivers who are persistent in delivering heartfelt service to every NYU patient. I could not have predicted 28 years of faithful service to NYU. Today my benefits are in jeopardy all because of the greed of more than a few who feel a sense of entitlement to high salaries and huge bonuses and less feeling toward the laborers and their families’ well-being. How does one just close his eyes to the ill-fated future of another, the way NYU Langone is doing to its network of loyal workers? NYU workers provide service not only locally, but internationally, including to


dignitaries and many patients who come to us from other countries. NYU Langone is placing us on a raft made of straw and pushing us out to the middle of New York Harbor with no life jackets. How are we are to survive with below cost-of-living wages while all the day-to-day services to survive and productively do our job go skyward, along with increased bonuses of management personnel whose bonuses outweigh the salaries of the basic healthcare laborer. Now tell me what is wrong with this picture? A man with a $5 million dollar yearly salary and additional perks who sees no wrong with cutting benefits of the very people who work in this great institution. Bonuses are being divvied up between administrative leaders who don’t even have face-to-face contact with the patients, while the frontline workers like myself are disrespectfully told to accept a cut in what few benefits we do have. That is criminal! How much personal profit and greed is enough for one man?

Does NYU Langone trust in God enough to know He would not be pleased with all this greed? And make no mistake about it, it is pure greed no matter how you arrange it, flavored heavily with self-absorption in efforts to commission idol statues of themselves. So as I watched the many speakers passionately tell their stories and visions at an April 19 meetng of NYU workers, it just awoke something in me that can no longer be stilled. I witnessed the intensity and plea in the eyes and voices of a people who were in battle for their lives and the futures of those to come behind. I came away from our Union’s April 19 meeting with a clear understanding that if we are to be one Union, everyone has to do his and her part. Our voice is a powerful thing and when one voice combines with another voice and another voice and another voice, the power to be heard becomes stronger and that power can change everything!

Vincent Maurice Crear Radiology, NYU Langone Health/ Bellevue Affiliate CLARIFICATION A caption appearing in last issue’s “Work We Do” feature indicated that Montefiore social worker Denise Velazquez has been in her current position for 22 years. Ms. Velazquez has been in her current position for 11 years, with a total of 22 years of service at Montefiore. We apologize for any confusion. Let’s hear from you. Send your letters to: 1199SEIU’s 1199 Magazine, 330 W. 42nd St, 7th Fl., New York, NY 10036, Attn: 1199 Magazine, Editor; or email them to magazine@1199.org. Please put Letters in the subject line of your email.

1199seiu: Mother’s Day is great, but #payequity is even better! The gender #wagegap is smaller for #union #women than nonunion women. #UnionMom #UnionMoms #honorallmothers

1199mass: 1199 Advocacy Day!!! Getting ready to tell our stories at the State House #1199SEIU #mapoli

1199SEIU: On Tuesday, May 22, 1199 members at League institutions gathered to walk their demands in to Management. Members are standing united for wages increases, and against cuts to pension benefits and attempts to prevent union growth. To win this fight, we must unite!

RT 1199SEIU: “We’ve got to hold up the banner until every person has health care, we’ve got to hold it up until every child is lifted in love, we’ve got to hold it up until every job is a living-wage job, until every person in poverty has guaranteed subsistence.” @RevDrBarber #justice

1199seiu: Florence Onewila, CNA, has worked at Concourse Nursing and Rehab in the Bronx since 1975. “Every time the contract comes up it’s a struggle to get them to the table.”

199SEIU–NJ: “Our residents have lived extraordinary lives— as teachers, doctors, janitors… They deserve better.” “The short staffing--it’s so unfair to them and to us.” “It breaks my heart.” Caregivers are demanding safe staffing in NJ nursing home! @ WeCareForNJ #njpol

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“Making America Great Again” Means Turning Back the Clock But our strength and unity will ensure the forward march of progress. The President’s Column by George Gresham

Since collective bargaining rights were written into law eight decades ago there hasn’t been such a hostile political environment for workers to negotiate contracts with their employers. Prior to that period, “labor relations” were often dictated by gun thugs and other hirelings at the service of Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, the coal barons of West Virginia and Kentucky, and their corporate brethren. Sure, times have changed. It’s rare these days for the police to be called to break up a strike or picket line. (Of course, it’s also rare these days for unions to call a strike or run a picket line at all.) Instead of brute force, corporate America now has those in The White House, Congress and the courts to do their bidding. These days recall a line by the songwriter and progressive hero Woody Guthrie: “I’ve seen lots of funny men. Some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen.” All the levers of federal power are in the hands of anti-worker, pro-corporate, far-right decision makers. The deck is stacked against working people. The Trump administration has turned every cabinet post into the opposite of its declared mission: the Environmental Protection Agency now eliminates environmental protections; the Department of Education now subverts public education, and so on. And in the same way, the National Labor Relations Board, which was established to protect labor’s collective bargaining rights, has been turned into an anti-labor agency. In keeping with the current trend, employers who stiff their workers or discriminate against them recently got a big lift from the U.S. Supreme Court, which last month issued a major ruling, making it easier for companies to avoid employee lawsuits. The ruling upheld employers’ use of class-action 6

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waivers in arbitration agreements. By signing these controversial provisions, workers give up their right to band together on issues like unpaid overtime and suing in court for back pay or damages, and are instead forced to face arbitrators on their own. By the time you read this, the Supreme Court will likely have handed down another anti-worker decision; in Janus v. American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees the justices are expected to rule against school teachers, bus drivers, mail carriers, firefighters and other public workers, essentially declaring the public sector as “right to work” territory, eliminating union dues as a part of union membership. Our employers are well aware of this poisonous political environment. So where does that leave us? What do we have to do now to win new contracts that protect our jobs and our families? The answer is obvious— keep on doing what we’ve always done: educate, organize, mobilize, more than ever before. When our union was first organized in 1932, it had only 5000 members. When 1199 decided to organize hospital workers in New York City, it was illegal to do so. Union leaders and members went to jail. Today we are 400,000 strong in five states and the District of Columbia. 1199ers have always been ready to walk the walk. A few years ago, we were told we were dreaming to think we could win a $15 an hour minimum wage. Now that is the demand of millions of workers across the country, including many who have already secured that and more. The odds have never favored working people. That’s why we have a union. Individually we have no power to demand a fair deal from our employers; it’s only because of our numbers—and when we stand

united — that we begin to balance the scales. We are living through a particularly difficult period when the ruling elites are doing whatever they can to destroy the gains of democratic movements—whether they are for civil rights, women’s rights, labor rights, reproductive rights, immigrant rights. And turning back the clock to the days when there were no such rights is what the man in the White House means by “making America great again.” And even when our employers don’t subscribe to that message, the environment has been created to encourage them to take back the gains we have made to protect our jobs, our families and our retirement security. This is not the first time this has happened and it won’t be the last. We’ve faced hard times and hostile forces before, and we’ve prevailed. We win when we’re united and willing to fight. I’m confident that, when you show the employers you are ready to do whatever it takes, there ain’t no stopping us. Let’s do it.

We are living through a particularly difficult period when the ruling elites are doing whatever they can to destroy the gains of democratic movements— whether they are for civil rights, women’s rights, labor rights, reproductive rights, immigrant rights.

Florida Maryland Massachusetts New Jersey New York Washington, D.C.

Around the Regions



Workers Picket Alaris Health

AFRAM Addresses Mental Health in the Black Community

“We are here to say enough is enough. We give our best every day and have been without a contract for four years.” Devika Smith CNA, Alaris Hamilton Park

 Members from New Jersey’s Alaris Health have been without a contract for four years.

Caregivers from five facilities owned by New Jersey’s Alaris Health demonstrated in Journal Square April 13 to demand a fair contract and safe staffing levels for patient care. Workers from Alaris Health Hamilton Park and Harborview in Jersey City, Castle Hill in Union City, Boulevard East in Guttenberg, and Rochelle Park have for more than three years been pressing an unresponsive management to come to the bargaining table and settle a contract that provides staff with fair wages, affordable health care and other basic benefits. Alaris’ owner, Avery Eisenreich, has refused to meet worker demands or even negotiate an acceptable agreement. In 2014, Alaris illegally locked out workers after a three-day strike held to protest the company’s numerous unfair labor practices, including bad faith bargaining spanning nearly six months and attempting to prevent workers from engaging in union activity through a campaign of intimidation and threats.

“I’ve dedicated the past 13 years of my life caring for the residents at Castle Hill. We went on strike to call attention to Alaris’ unfair labor practices, short staffing levels, and low pay. Residents [were] being taken care of by temporary workers who they [didn’t] even know,” said Claudia Soldana, a certified nursing assistant at Alaris Health at Castle Hill, who was among the workers locked out in 2014. At the April action, workers delivered a petition to the company’s Jersey City headquarters and called Eisenreich and Alaris to deal fairly with employees. Workers noted that the company’s profits for the last five years have exceeded $21 million, according to data from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). “We are here to say enough is enough. We give our best every day and have been without a contract for four years,” said Devika Smith, a CNA at Alaris Hamilton Park “It’s not fair to us and it’s not fair to our residents. It’s time for Alaris to step up to the plate.”

Central Florida 1199ers, affiliated with the Service Employees Union’s African American Caucus (AFRAM), are working with the nonprofit communitybased organization “Let Your Voices Be Heard” to raise awareness of the crisis of mental health care in the Orlando and the Central Florida region. Studies by mental health professionals have found that although African Americans suffer serious mental distress at greater rates than white Americans, they are less likely to access mental health services. “If unions want to be seen as caring for more than just their own wages and conditions, they have to involve themselves in the community,” says Dorette Smart, a mental health tech at Oceola Regional Medical Center in Kissimmee. Smart was among the 1199ers who attended Let Your Voices Be Heard’s forum “Let’s Talk Mental Health, Part II” in April. The event, which was held during National Victim’s Week, featured four licensed mental health professionals who discussed the challenge of maintaining mental health in the face of the many hardships and obstacles in the Black community. AFRAM members have partnered with Let Your Voices Be Heard on other community issues, including getting out the vote for progressive candidates. Another issue they are addressing is the high pollution level in Parramoore, a poor, predominantly African American community in Orlando. Residents say the pollution from several factors, chief among them a high concentration of highways and roads and a neighborhood Superfund site where lethal chemicals have leaked into the ground, contribute not only to poor health but also to mental and emotional distress.

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Around the Regions


Contract Fight at Concourse Rehab

Were You There? 1199ers turned out by the thousands for a massive march and rally in downtown Manhattan during 1989’s contract negotiations with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Nursing Homes. Were you there? Tell us your story at Magazine@1199.org.


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 Members held an informational picket on May 1 at Concourse NH in the Bronx to demand a fair contract.

Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein

Workers at a Bronx nursing home who have been without a signed contract for the past 18 months took to the streets on May Day to fight for their rights. The LPNs, CNAs and dietary employees represented by 1199SEIU at the Concourse Rehabilitation and Nursing Center mounted an informational picket to protest management’s refusal to come to the table to bargain a new contract. The workers have been without a contract since September 2016. “It is always a fight and a struggle every time we try to negotiate with this employer,” said Alma Pitts, a CNA who has worked there for 28 years and an 1199 delegate of 22 years standing. “Management will not even agree to dates for negotiation meetings with us. They are not bargaining in good faith. We have bills to pay like everyone else, but unlike our fellow workers at other Bronx institutions, we have not had an increase in almost two years. Other institutions come to the table willingly and sign a contract. We have to drag them to the table every time.” Workers are also concerned about staffing levels at the Bronx facility. “Almost every weekend, we are shortstaffed,” said Ms. Pitts. “We do the best we can, but without enough staff, levels of patient care are bound to be affected.”

 Mount Sinai drug counselors Colinda Castillo and Jeremy Chase at April 24 meeting of Certified Substance Abuse Counselors


Caseloads and Staffing are Central Issues for Drug Counselors The 1199 Professional & Technical Department held a union-wide meeting for Certified Substance Abuse Counselors (CASAC) on April 24 at 1199’s Manhattan headquarters. The Union represents CASACs at scores of hospitals, rehabilitation centers and community based health organizations throughout New York. The meeting’s agenda included a discussion on continuing education, compensation issues, a report on new professional regulations, the impact of the impending Janus decision and upcoming negotiations with League of Voluntary Hospitals and Nursing Homes. CASACs are facing mounting caseloads complicated by increasing documentation requirements, broadening scopes of practice,

higher productivity demands and an increasingly complex and crossaddicted client population. Short staffing, as for many professions, is a constant struggle for CASACs. “If we don’t have the correct staffing we cannot do our jobs effectively,” said Charmain Lezama, a CASAC who works at Brooklyn’s St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Treatment Center. “Short staffing impedes our job performance. It’s very simple: without the proper tools no one can do their job effectively.” At the meeting, counselors described burnout related to caseloads and management demand. There was a lively conversation about a campaign on rising caseloads and what the challenges would be, especially with revenues directly linked to increasing patient

numbers. Some spoke of using labormanagement committees in their institutions as a strategy to address this problem. Many signed up for the 1199 CASAC Committee to flesh out implementation strategies and wider Union involvement. The meeting brought 17 members from various institutions on to the Union-Wide CASAC Working Committee, which will be assisted by 1199SEIU’s Professional and Technical Department. “It’s a good start for us to be here so we can talk about stuff, but it takes involvement to move things forward,” said Delegate Anthony Nicholas, a CASAC at Mount Sinai/Beth Israel in Manhattan. “A committee may walk out of this room together, but we have to be sure to take the work back to the shops so everyone can get involved.”

“If we don’t have the correct staffing we cannot do our jobs effectively,” said Charmain Lezama, a CASAC who works at Brooklyn’s St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Treatment Center. “Short staffing impedes our job performance. It’s very simple: without the proper tools no one can do their job effectively.”

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Around the Regions

 Puerto Ricans affected by Hurricane Maria arrive in Florida. Vamos4PR members demonstrate and meet with Florida legislators to press for aid to Puerto Rico.


Puerto Rico Crisis Deepens Eva Nolasco, a CNA at Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte, FL, devotes much of her precious free time to help heal the deep wounds of Puerto Rican victims of last year’s Hurricane Maria. The hurricane was the most catastrophic storm to hit the island in more than a century. “Helping our sisters and brothers is the right thing to do,” Nolasco says, noting that thousands of Puerto Ricans, lacking the essentials of life after the hurricane, have settled in Florida. Nolasco and her family were both victims and heroes of last year’s Hurricane Irma. She and other Florida Member Political Organizers (MPO) are working alongside other SEIU members in Vamos4PR, a network of labor, community, cultural and human rights organizations, to provide support and assistance to Puerto Ricans on the island as well as those whose dire straits forced them to leave. “We are working to help evacuees get back on their feet and to get things like jobs, housing and health care,” Nolasco says. “What bothers me is that 10

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these victims, all of whom are U.S. citizens, aren’t getting the assistance they have a right to.” She cites the many displaced victims who were on the verge of being tossed on the streets because the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had decided to cut off

Right To Work? Sure. For Less.

housing assistance to them. Adding to the disastrous plight of the hurricane victims is the worsening economic situation in Puerto Rico. In addition to the failures of FEMA and mismanagement on the island, residents are facing attempts at deregulation and privatization that frequently follow disasters. Those attempts began before Maria, when a debt crisis crippled Puerto Rico’s finances, and destroyed billions in Puerto Rican investments and leaving the island’s infrastructure dangerously vulnerable Vamos4PR has shone a light on the economic crisis and has advanced In addition to remedies. The organization notes the failures on its website: “With a public debt of FEMA and estimated at $72 billion, hundreds mismanageof schools have been shut down ment on and healthcare services have been the island, crippled, jobs have been cut and hours residents have been slashed, hurting the most are facing vulnerable on the island.” attempts at Nolasco and Vamos4PR have met deregulation with federal and state officials and enlisted and privatization the aid of other organizations. They are that frequently urging supporters to demand that elected follow officials in the U.S. Puerto Rico put the disasters. people before the debt.

Kim Wessels Photos


nursing homes to direct public resources to the caregivers who provide patients with daily physical and emotional support.

 NJ nursing home workers rallied in Trenton on May 1 to demand passage of safe staffing legislation.

NJ May Day March Hundreds converge on NJ state capitol demanding safe staffing for nursing homes.

Some 300 1199SEIU members rallied May 1 in Trenton, NJ, demanding passage of a bill creating minimum caregiver-to-patient ratios in nursing homes. Demonstrators marched from the Patriot’s Theater at the War Memorial to the New Jersey Statehouse, where caregivers shared testimonies of working short-staffed and legislators pledged their support. “So much has changed since I started working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA),” said Margaret Boyce, a CNA at JFK Hartwyck at Edison Estates. “In 2002, I had six to eight residents to care for each day. Now that number has grown to 15, and sometimes 20 [patients]. This affects our patients in so many ways. For example, instead of getting a bath every day, they get just two a week.” Bill S1612/A382 would establish

specific, minimum CNA-to-patient ratios in New Jersey’s nursing homes. Gov. Chris Christie vetoed an identical bill passed two years ago by Jersey’s legislature. New Jersey State Senator Brian P. Stack was critical of New Jersey’s abysmal ranking of 45th in the nation for staffing among nursing home CNAs. Stack called on New Jersey’s largely for-profit nursing home industry to properly steward the money it receives from Medicaid and Medicare. “There is simply no reason why New Jersey’s nursing home industry should be lagging the nation when it comes to ensuring adequate direct care staffing. This bill is long overdue and will improve and enrich the lives of tens of thousands of our state’s most vulnerable people,” said Stack. Advocates echoed the call on

“With better CNA staffing levels we could improve our patients’ quality of life.” CNA Claire Wombough

“In recent years the legislature has acted to increase Medicaid funding for our state’s nursing home industry…At the end of the day there’s an expectation that these facilities invest these significant taxpayer dollars into their direct care workforce,” said NJ State Senate President Steve Sweeney. While workers affirmed Sweeney’s remarks, they noted that too many homes choose not to re-invest public funding, forcing caregivers to choose between critical responsibilities. “One night I was the only CNA on a floor with 50 residents,” said Josefina Jimenez, a CNA at Genesis Oakridge. “I knew that one of my residents was close to dying, and I wanted to comfort her in her final moments because she did not have anyone else. With all of my other responsibilities, by the time I made it to her room she had already passed away. It was heartbreaking.” “With better CNA staffing levels, we could improve our patients’ quality of life,” said Claire Wombough, a CNA at Aristacare at Manchester who has worked in her profession for 22 years. “Right now, patients are rushed to finish their breakfast, even if they prefer to eat at a slower pace. Many patients need assistance to walk around and would benefit from having more time with a caregiver so they’re not confined to a chair as much. Our patients are human beings, not robots. They should be able to choose the type of lifestyle they want.” Overwhelming workloads threaten residents and force workers into untenable positions, affirmed Tyshara Bonaparte, a CNA from Jersey City. “It breaks my heart when I hear the urgency in a patient’s voice that they need assistance,” said Bonaparte, “But I’m occupied caring for somebody else.”

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COMMENCE 1199SEIU’s collective bargaining agreement with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes covers some 80,000 workers in lower New York State.

Protecting 1199’s Gold Standard Contract talks between 199SEIU and the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes kicked off on May 21, when the Union and management held their first bargaining session at a New York City hotel. The League was founded in 1968 and currently represents 90 healthcare institutions throughout the New York City metropolitan area. 1199’s collective bargaining agreement with the employer association is the Union’s gold standard and a group of 300 fired up Union negotiating committee members came to the table ready to protect it. “We are at the forefront of the labor movement with the quality of our contract,” said Anthony Smith, a cook at Montefiore Medical Center 12

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in the Bronx. “People have died for what we have in our contract. We must protect it. If bosses think they can break us, then they will think they can break everyone.” At the outset of bargaining, workers greeted management representatives with cheers, hoots and the chant of “To Win This Fight We Must Unite!” Led by 1199SEIU President George Gresham, the Union’s negotiating committee set forth a list of demands hammered out at a May 16 ratification meeting which include the following: • A contract duration of 10/1/2018 to 9/30/21 • Annual wage increases • Maintenance of all Funds, including the National Benefit Fund (NBF) with no premiums or co-pays. • Increased contribution rate to Training and Upgrading Fund Maintenance of the Pension Fund • Security for nursing home jobs, with the succession clause applicable to the sale of any nursing home where 1199 represents workers. • Improved job security for 1199ers, with an update to Protected Status Date so that at least 75% of the employees at covered institutions are included • Local bargaining for professional and technical workers to deal with issues specific to those classifications • Residual and offsite organizing rights “We will do whatever it takes.” ​ As in previous negotiations, management came to the table with a raft of complaints about pensions, healthcare costs and organizing. The League also pushed back against perceived benefit cost inequities between for-profit and non-profit nursing homes, but workers weren’t having it. They vowed to stand together against pension cuts and talk intended to divide workers from one another. 1199ers acknowledged bargaining challenges, but members like Elva King cited 1199ers’ work in Albany and legislative offices across the state on behalf of employers and the professional dedication of

“We are not giving up anything. We will do whatever it takes to win this contract,” said Negotiating Committee Member Elva King, CNA, St. Barnabas Hospital. “We work hard and deserve everything we’ve fought for over the years.”

 North Shore Forest Hills Pharmacist Richard Benincasa (third from front at microphone) is from a union family. His father was instrumental in organizing the historic Whalen Drug strike of the 1950’s.

 “Winning is done in numbers, with strength and by showing up,” said Mount Sinai Beth Israel Physician Assistant Dewitt Scott.

 Negotiating committee members from Northwell Syosset on Long Island.

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“ This fight has just begun and their tactics are nothing new. They are coming hard at us, so we have to be ready for whatever the fight is.”

caregivers to their patients. “We are not giving anything up. We will do whatever it takes to win this contract,” said Elva King, a CNA at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx. “We work hard and deserve everything we’ve fought for over the years.” 1199SEIU President George Gresham praised the committee’s toughness, encouraging levelheaded clarity in the face of League pressure. As jobs and delivery models change, he reminded members, healthcare

 Paulette Forbes, a radiological technologist at Brookdale Hospital, encouraged members to work together and avoid conflict.  League negotiating committee members ratify Union’s contract proposals at May 16 meeting. 14

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providers are larger, stronger and more consolidated than ever. Still, Gresham was confident. “I’m looking at the amount of people in this room and I’m thinking this is a lot of power,” Pres. Gresham told members ahead of ratifying contract proposals. Into Action At press time, workers were set to enter the second round of negotiations and wrapped a series of actions

intended to amplify 1199ers’ intention to unite and fight. Workers at League institutions held a sticker day on June 6, during which workers wore stickers emblazoned with the slogan “To Win This Fight We Must Unite!” And May 29 tens of thousands of 1199ers staged a League-wide walk-in on the boss and delivered hand-signed Medigrams demanding honest negotiations and a fair contract. In Manhattan, at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, thousands of workers streamed through the institution’s halls and into the executive suite, where police officers and a human resources director who accepted their petition greeted them. “What they first offered us was a slap in the face and now we are going to show them that we mean business,” said Presby Special Procedure Technologist Tony Martinez. “This fight has just begun and their tactics are nothing new. They are coming hard at us, so we have to be ready for whatever the fight is.” Negotiations were scheduled to resume on June 12.


 NYU members at a May 10 community meeting speaking about how recent actions by the healthcare mega-system are endangering workers’ security; from left: Senior Medical Secretary Darrell Clarke, Hospital for Joint Disease RN Joy Thomas, Medical Secretary Shawn Lipscomb and NYU Brooklyn Clerk Andy Cassagnol.

What You Are Fighting for is Justice for All Caregivers and all Working People Benefits under threat, NYU Langone workers stand up to the healthcare mega system. 1199ers from NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan, along with their Union brothers and sisters from affiliated institutions throughout the five boroughs, held a raucous meeting April 19 at Baruch College to oppose Union busting tactics at the healthcare mega-system and press NYU Langone to treat workers fairly. “With the Union and at the hospital [being part of The League] we had the support of a lot of people when we had problems,” said Reina Cintron, an NYU Certified Surgical Technologist for 23 years. “Now people are afraid of losing their benefits and pensions. Changes in our health coverage could put a real strain on people. They’ll be paying for things they just can’t afford.” For decades, NYU negotiated collective bargaining agreements as part of the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Nursing Homes, an employer association of New York’s largest private, non-profit healthcare institutions. 1199’s contract with The League covers some 40,000 workers and is the Union’s gold standard in terms of wages, healthcare, pension

and other benefits. But in March 2016, mid-contract, NYU withdrew from the League and moved to bargain independently with 1199SEIU. An ensuing struggle brought the issue before The National Labor Relations Board, which issued a complaint alleging the institution’s mid-term withdrawal violated the National Labor Relations Act. Workers are anxious that NYU’s actions telegraph an intention to hack away at wages, healthcare coverage, pensions and other hardwon benefits. At the April meeting, furious workers shared their fears of consequences in the wake of NYU’s split from the League. Andy Cassagno, a clerk at NYU Brooklyn described how dependable health coverage has eased his worries. Cassagno is a father of five whose wife suffers from a painful and unpredictable health condition. “Right now, we have peace of mind that when she has an episode,” he said. “I am worried that will not be true in the future.” A host of community allies, 1199SEIU members and vocally

supportive elected officials joined the meeting. “It’s easy for our workers in hospitals, nursing homes and homecare to be overlooked,” said New York State Assembly member Dick Gottfried. “What you are fighting for is justice for all caregivers and all working people.” NYU workers followed up the April meeting with a May 26 delivery of petitions to hospital CEO Robert L. Grossman demanding fairness in upcoming negotiations. To date, Grossman not responded. Dietary worker Carmen Garcia said she was energized by the meeting and that workers needed to remain militant with eyes wide open. “This is absolutely a time when we need to stick together and be vigilant,” said Garcia, a dietary worker at NYU’s main hospital with three of 4 kids still covered by her health benefits. “People need to attend meetings and make sure they have the correct information about what’s going on with this. If members aren’t informed they need to get informed because everything is at risk.”

Workers are anxious that NYU’s actions telegraph an intention to hack away at wages, healthcare coverage, pensions and other hardwon benefits.

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Sharpening Tools for Tough Struggles

Ahead Training Program produces new cadre of leaders.


As attacks against our labor movement intensify, 1199 is responding on various fronts, chief among them the stepping up of its leadership education and training. Last month, for example, 13 members from Syracuse and 12 from Buffalo in upstate New York were awarded certificates for completing an eight-month Leaders in Training (LIT) program. Graduates praised the program, stressing that they are now far better prepared to lead their co-workers in the workplace. “The classes far exceeded my expectations,” says Sheila Pickett, a CNA at Onondaga Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Minoa, NY. The LIT classes, which are conducted by regional staff in collaboration with the Union’s Education Dept., employ the popular education model in which participants draw lessons from their personal experiences. Among the subjects that were covered in the curriculum were labor history, politics, social justice, public speaking, the role of leaders in the workplace and workplace organizing projects. “I learned so much new about

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the history of working people in this country,” says David Telfer, a CNA at Syracuse’s Loretto Health & Rehabilitation. “I also know more about how to get involved in politics and how to hold elected officials accountable.” Jessica Wentland, a delegate at Buffalo’s Children’s Hospital, was one of four RNs in the Buffalo class. “The history we learned in the class helped me to understand how to use the lessons of the past to help us move forward in the present,” she says. She says that the classes were timely, noting, “We have come far, but now we have a President who wants to take us back.” The graduates say that the classes spoke directly to current issues, exploring topics as wide ranging as the increased attacks on labor, the rollback of social and economic gains, the #MeToo movement and Black Lives Matter. Pickett notes that the sessions gave her a greater appreciation of other struggles. “It’s important to know how others have been discriminated against and how much

we all have in common,” she stresses. Similarly, Telfer mentions that he now recognizes the commonality of forms of oppression. “I now see the connection between immigrant rights and union rights,” he says. A highlight for members were the public speaking classes. Many were fearful at first. Wentland, who praises the class, says, “In the beginning, I fought against it tooth and nail.” Darlene Gates, a home health aide at Weinberg Campus in Buffalo, agrees enthusiastically: “The public speaking sessions were great. They gave me the confidence to speak to members and management.” The students say that another highpoint was the chapter building projects that they applied to their workplaces. “I work in a large facility, so I needed ideas on how to reach a lot of members,” Gates says. “We had an exercise on how to map and recruit, how to build from the ground up and even how to use social media. This is important for me now because we have contract negotiations coming up and Weinberg might soon have a new owner.”

Photo: Robert Kirkhams

I work in a large facility, so I needed ideas on how to reach a lot of members. We had an exercise on how to map and recruit, how to build from the ground up and even how to use social media. – Darlene Gates

 Leader In Training: Buffalo home health aide Darlene Gates gained confidence in her public speaking ability.  Buffalo Children’s Hospital RN Jessica Wentland is among four RNs who completed recent leadership training. Photo: Robert Kirkhams

Attendees stress that the classes also built camaraderie. “I became a delegate because I’ve always been for underdog,” says Pickett. “The classes helped me grow along with Union sister and brothers. Together we were all able to take a big step forward.” “The classes have helped my confidence grow,” says Telfer. “Anyone who gets the opportunity should attend. I believe everyone who attends leaves as a much better leader.” “We had wonderful lead instructors who were able to communicate in simple language,” Wentland says. “I got a lot out of each class, and I’ve already recruited a new delegate at my workplace.”

 Leader In Training: Buffalo home health aide Darlene Gates gained confidence in her public speaking ability. 1199 Magazine 17

The Work We Do In May, we celebrate our Registered Nurses and Laboratory professionals with RN Week and Laboratory Professionals Week. Both classifications are an integral and too-often unrecognized part of the patient care team. This “Work We Do” features images from 1199’s archives. The photos remind us of how much has changed in healthcare, except for one crucial thing: the dedication of our caregivers.


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• In 1995, 1199 and The League of Voluntary Hospitals and Nursing Homes, agreed through collective bargaining to form the Registered Nurse Training and Job Security Fund (RNTJSF). The initiative provides a wide array of benefits and programs, including training and education, incentive programs, career placement and more.

• Laboratory Technologists are among the 35,000 professional and technical workers represented by 1199SEIU. 1199’s lab workers have fought for and won major gains for their profession, including landmark wage increases at several institutions and improved professional standards with a licensing victory in New York State.

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Today’s Professional and Technical Dept. was preceded by the Guild of Professional, Technical, Office and Clerical Employees. The Guild, which was formed in 1964, represented x-ray technologists, licensed practical nurses, and switchboard operators at New York City hospitals.

• Medical Laboratory Professionals Week originated in 1975 as National Medical Laboratory Week, or NMLW, under the auspices of the American Society for Medical Technology, which is now called the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science. The annual event celebrates the work of medical


May-June 2018

laboratory professionals and pathologists who play a vital, and often anonymous, role in patient care. • Registered Nurses at Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn and Mercy Hospital in Port Jervis, N.Y. led the way for increased RN unionization with victories in bitter, hardwon strikes.

New Organizing: The Union Difference

“This isn’t just a job for us. It’s not just about punching in and out.”

A strong and secure middle class depends not only on workers earning a fair and stable income, but also on their ability to sufficiently save for the future, including retirement. When families live paycheck to paycheck, unexpected sickness or layoffs can spark years of compounding hardships. Evidence has long shown that a strong labor movement is among the most important factors for protecting the middle class. 1199 continues to be a leading force strengthening the middle class and lifting the voices of working people. In the past two months, 200 workers voted to join 1199. Union members generally have higher wages and better benefits than nonunion workers. Union jobs that offer access to training and career opportunities and retirement security make it easier for middle-class families to plan for their future and thus increase their savings. In that sense, union membership can create a virtuous cycle for middle-class stability. One of those victories came from the Bronx, where more than 70 Home Health Aides at BeSure Home Health Services agency, voted overwhelmingly to join 1199.

These HHAs were working without affordable health insurance, access to training and education, paid time off for holidays or vacation as well as respect on the job. Carol Khaldoun, a Home Health Aide and one of the leaders in her union committee, is looking forward having a seat at the table and fighting for issues she feels are important during negotiations. “To know my voice is heard should issues arise gives me a sense of security.” Another recent win for workers, this time in the Hudson Valley, occurred on April 19 when 115 tech workers from Northern Westchester Hospital voted to join 1199. “When I came back from maternity leave, management changed my schedule.” Jennifer Pedroso a radiology technologist, with 10 years of service, explains why she joined the union committee. “I went to HR and asked if they could just change my days despite my seniority and despite the fact I had been working nights. HR said this was completely allowed.” Jennifer went on to explain that her new schedule was a source of tension as she struggled to switch days with

other staff so that she could care for her new baby. She goes on to mention that part of being treated with respect is feeling appreciated for the work you do. “This isn’t just a job for us. It’s not just about punching in and out. We want to be appreciated and want to feel we have a future here.” Now as part of the 1199 family, Jennifer looks to the future with more confidence at the changes she envisions. “I’m excited and relieved. I have a team of representatives standing behind me, so I don’t have to worry about my daughter. I know that my health care and benefits will improve, and we’ll have more security for my family and our future.”

 (Top) Technical workers at Northern Westchester Hospital after their April vote in favor of 1199 representation.  (Bottom) In April mail ballot election, BeSure Agency home health aides voted overwhelmingly for 1199 representation.

“I’m excited and relieved. I know that my health care and benefits will improve, and we’ll have more security for my family and our future.” Jennifer Pedroso, Northern Westchester Hospital

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Healthcare Voters Making a Difference 1199ers are helping turn the political tide.


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The stakes in November’s election have rarely been higher. And 1199 is joining hands with our progressive allies to elect worker-friendly candidates to local and national offices, and to send right-wing extremists packing. A focus of the electoral campaigns is to stand up for and elect candidates who will fight for quality care for all. The mobilization has begun with impressive victories throughout the Union’s regions. Just ahead of this magazine’s production, New York City, 1199ers knocked on doors and helped get out the votes in April’s special elections that secured victories for Democratic State Assembly candidates Harvey Epstein in Manhattan, Nathalia Fernandez and Luis Sepulveda in the Bronx and Ari Espinal in Queens. A major victory in the state contests, was the election of Democrat Shelley Mayer, a longtime friend of 1199, to a hotlycontested Westchester district Senate seat. Mayer acknowledged 1199’s work during her victory speech. “I believe [Shelly Mayer] has a lot to offer, especially on women’s rights,” says Ann Marie Burke, a CNA at Yonkers’ Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center. Burke stresses that she is confident that Mayer would be especially helpful to the children

Burke cares for. “These kids are very important to me. Most of them are on Medicaid, and they deserve a fair chance.” Across the Hudson, members in Newark, New Jersey’s largest city, helped re-elect Mayor Ras Baraka to a second term. Mayor Baraka has promised to work with Gov. Phil Murphy, a progressive Democrat, on issues such as jobs, education, housing and crime reduction. A Newark native, Mayor Baraka, has an activist background. His late father was the well-known poet and radical Amiri Baraka. Among the members who helped get out the vote for Mayor Baraka was Deborah Neal, a dietary aide at Newark’s Sinai Post-Acute Nursing & Rehab Center. She canvassed on election day for the first time. “We have to lift our voices up if we want to improve our communities and help young people,” she says. Maryland 1199ers have been pounding the pavement for Ben Jealous, the former head of the NAACP who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. Jealous is facing off against six other candidates in the June 26 primary. A longtime friend of 1199 and the labor movement, Jealous already has established a formidable record. Working with

1199SEIU members, he chaired the campaign to pass Maryland’s DREAM Act. He also led efforts to abolish the death penalty, pass marriage equality legislation and expanded voting rights in the state. “I knocked on doors for Ben Jealous because I know that he stands for what we fight for,” says Renee Neal, a Johns Hopkins Hospital oxygen tech and a member of the Union’s Executive Council. “We are a blue state with a Republican governor, and that has to change or cities like Baltimore will continue to be shortchanged. Ben also supports a $15 minimum, which is one of our important demands.” Union literature for Jealous also points out that he’s a fighter for workers’ protections and that instead of locking up Marylanders for petty crimes, he would legalize marijuana and use the revenue to increase education funding from pre-K to college. 1199ers in Palm Beach, Florida, helped Democrat Lori Berman score a landslide victory in Senate District 31 in an April 11 special election. “This is a win for the people of Palm Beach County on the issues that matter to us,” said Berman, on election night. “It’s a mandate that the issues we see — education, gun control, health care, the environment — matter to people of Palm Beach County.”





“ He stands for what we fight for.” 1. Retiree Cheryl Freeman canvassing for Harvey Epstein in New York City’s Lower East Side. :I have supported him for 20-2omething years because he fights for jobs and urban justice,” said Freeman.

2. Getting out the vote for Shelley Mayer in Westchester, NY. 3. Ready to get on the doors in Queens for Ari Espinal.

4. Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous with some fierce 1199 Weekend Warriors. 5. Celebrating with newly-re-elected Newark, NJ mayor, Ras Baraka.


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The Work We Do Looking back at the contributions of our Lab Professionals and Registered Nurses. See page 18.

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