A Journal of 1199SEIU November-December 2019
ANNOUNCEMENT OF SEIU CONVENTION DELEGATE ELECTION. SEE INSERT
Our Year in Review
16 5 The Presidentâ€™s Column Unity, not division, is what makes America great.
@1199seiu www.1199seiu.org 2
7 Around the Regions Labor Management Project committees showcase promising practices; rally for Staten Island University Hospital physician assistants; Save Our Union anniversary celebration.
9 Grab Your Squad and Register Important voter registration information and deadlines
19 Silver Solutions Florida coalition is seeking ways to address challenges facing long term care.
10 Our Year in Review A look back at 2019.
20 Contract Victories No contract? No way!
15 One Paycheck From Disaster Homecare worker struggles to recover after devastating house fire.
21 Our Caucus Program 1199â€™s People With Disabilities Caucus
16 The Work We Do Whitman-Walker Health in Washington, D.C.
22 Our History The birth of a political powerhouse.
1199 Magazine November-December 2019 Vol. 37, No. 6 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: Looking Back. Looking Ahead Let’s celebrate our victories and prepare for next year’s challenges. Here we are already at the end of 2019, and 2020, one the most consequential years of any of our lifetimes, is upon us. That was fast! At this moment there are proceedings in Washington, D.C., that will alter the history of our nation and possibly determine the fate of the current administration. Around the country, autoworkers, teachers, airport workers, tech workers, musicians, journalists, and others have been in the streets and on strike lines demanding and winning fair wages, better conditions, and a voice on the job. Women are standing up and demanding equal treatment and respect. Young people in cities around the world are marching (sometimes in the hundreds of thousands), demanding change and accountability from their governments. In short, despite the constant allegations of complacency, working people regularly demonstrate their collective power to reverse injustice and make strides once thought impossible. President Gresham reminds us in his column that this is our shared history and the power of unity writ large. Whether it’s at city hall or in the offices of management, it’s impossible to deny the power of united people moving toward one goal. Want more proof? Take a look at pages 10 through 14 of this magazine. But too often, our differences are emphasized. We’re constantly reminded how we’re damaged and torn asunder, of the they and a we, of the ours and theirs. We’re told that children locked in cages are from there, not here; that they don’t deserve the same schools, housing, and quality of life as us; that helping them means less for us; that they are coming to take our jobs, etc. In short, whoever they are, they don’t speak, eat, pray, dress, love, or live like us. We 1199ers know none of that is true. We don’t believe in an us and a them. Our belief is in the
George Gresham secretary treasurer
Maria Castaneda executive vice presidents
Jacqueline Alleyne Norma Amsterdam Yvonne Armstrong Lisa Brown Tim Foley Patrick Forde Ruth Heller Antonio Howell Maria Kercado Steve Kramer Joyce Neil Monica Russo Rona Shapiro Milly Silva Gregory Speller Veronica Turner-Biggs editor
Patricia Kenney director of photography
art direction & design Maiarelli Studio cover illustration
Joanna Neborsky contributors
Regina Heimbruch JJ Johnson Erin Rojas Desiree Taylor Sarah Wilson
collective power of we. We confront management. We sit down at bargaining tables. We stand together on picket lines. We win elections. We help pass legislation. We press government to do the right thing. We stand in solidarity with our coalition partners. Our victories are proof that a mobilized we is greater than a weaponized they. That’s why, after a holiday respite celebrating with loved ones, we must look ahead to 2020. The President of the United States, the U.S. House of Representatives, several state legislatures are up for re-election. A struggle for the very soul of our nation lies ahead of us. We must be united and we must be ready for the fight of our lives.
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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OLD FASHIONED ORGANIZING STILL WORKS, SAYS RN DELEGATE want to congratulate the Union and the organizers of October’s Save Our Union event in New York City. It was an incredible turnout and definitely a nostalgic love fest for those of us who participated in that struggle. I hope the celebration of rebuilding 1199 into the strong union it is today, encourages our younger members to see what is possible when we organize. Whether it’s the old-fashioned walking the floors in our institutions, handing out leaflets, phone banking; or if it’s texting, Tweeting or Instagramming, we need to organize ourselves around our goals. And if the Union officers and staff aren’t up to the struggle, we need to hold their feet to the fire. As you know, there are vast changes in health care and it’s looking more and more like the rest of the corporate world. Retail pharmacy chains are merging, and with that our neighborhood drug stores are disappearing. Hedge funds are buying nursing homes. Hospitals are becoming super corporations and behaving just like any other mega-industry. Hospitals are buying each other out, downsizing, outsourcing, deskilling; combining jobs, using technology to eliminate jobs, and of course, taking job titles out of the Union. These are many challenges that lie ahead, but always remember—if we don’t organize, we will get nothing, but when we organize, we can win!
Nina Howes, RN Delegate Mount Sinai Beth Israel 4
October’s anniversary celebration of 1199’s Save Our Union victory.
These are many challenges that lie ahead, but always remember— if we don’t organize, we will get nothing, but when we organize, we can win!
SENIOR ALLY STANDS WITH NY 1199ERS ast week the news reported that Governor Cuomo wants to cut Medicaid because it’s costing New York billions of dollars. Maybe 1199ers need to be ready to demonstrate in Albany, like last year? You have my full support. Last year we were fighting President Trump’s attacks on health care. This year it’s Governor Cuomo! I am 74 years old and depend on Medicare. If it wasn’t for Medicaid and Medicare, I’d be living on the street. We can’t let Gov. Cuomo’s proposed cuts happen!
Elizabeth White Liberty, N.Y.
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.
Workers Are the Key to a More Perfect Union The best of our nation is made possible through our collective strength. The President’s Column by George Gresham
I don’t know about you but I’m tired of the media describing President Trump’s base as the white working class. For one thing, we know that his real base is Wall Street—the oil, chemical, mining, and timber interests who make up the billionaire class to whom he and his Republican congressional cronies gave away $1.5 trillion dollars in our taxes last year. And, for another, polls show that Trump voters in 2016 had an average annual income of $90,000. The whole concept of working class being synonymous with white is a myth. The working class in these United States is multiracial and multinational, and has always been that way. Visit any auto factory, steel mill, or coal mine, and it’s quite clear. Three years after Trump’s election, it is now obvious to all that his entire worldview, political strategy, and method of rule is one of sowing division among the American people— and especially among workers—using racism, religious bias, misogyny, and xenophobia as his weapons. He’s hardly the first to do so, but he is the first President to do it in such an open way since Woodrow Wilson promoted the Ku Klux Klan a century ago. When I was growing up, it was common adult wisdom that “you can’t fight city hall.” This was pretty convenient for those in city hall. There’s truth in the idea that individuals (at least those of us who aren’t part of the 1%) have little strength fighting the powers that be. But in 1199SEIU, we know that we do have strength to confront city hall or the White House when we are united. The entire purpose of a union is to use our collective strength to win gains that benefit all our families on the job and in our communities. There’s never been a moment in my lifetime when maintaining our unity has been so essential. When I say our
unity, I’m talking about within our union, with our coalition partners, and with the working class. With his daily Twitter incitements, white supremacist rallies, stacking the courts with farright extremists, and executive orders criminalizing immigrants (including children), Donald Trump has launched an unending campaign to divide us. The notion of a united country is embedded in the very foundation of the United States. The first words of our Constitution are, “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union...” Though the Constitution’s ratification 232 years ago pertained only to white men of property, at least some of the founders understood that the new union was a work in progress. They knew this country would need a lot more perfecting, even as it grew vast wealth founded on the enslavement and murder of millions of Africans who were treated like work animals. Seventy years later, Abraham Lincoln, fully aware of the U.S. as a work in progress, fought to hold the country together. In his first inaugural address, Lincoln appealed to America’s “better angels” to again strive for a more perfect union. The Southern slavocracy responded by declaring war on the United States. Their actions resulted in the Civil War deaths of 650,000 soldiers, in a country with a total population of 32 million at the time. During the same era, the United States declared war on Mexico, launching the largest land grab in history, and forcibly annexing what would become Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and California. And under slaveholding President Andrew Jackson, the U.S. committed the wholesale genocide of the indigenous peoples of this country, reducing their numbers from 10 million to less than 1 million in the 19th century. A more perfect union indeed.
But two and a half centuries later, a young man from Hawaii named Barack Hussein Obama would come to personify how our multiracial country was built and remind us not only of the enormous price paid in blood and bodies, but also of the possibilities that still exist within it. Nearly a century and a half after the Civil War, he launched an improbable presidential campaign, themed on a collective effort to build a more perfect union, empowered and guided by our better angels. The point of all of this is to say that we are always being tested. Freedom is indeed a constant struggle—that is nothing that we 1199ers do not know. But as Frederick Douglass argued more than a century ago, power concedes nothing without a struggle; it never has and it never will. The key to all of our past and future victories is our unity. Without it, we are powerless. As our sisters and brothers in Latin America say, “¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!” The people united will never be defeated.
“There’s never been a moment in my lifetime when maintaining our unity has been so essential. When I say our unity, I’m talking about within our union, with our coalition partners, and with the working class.”
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Our Year on Social Media Hereâ€™s a selection of some of our favorite 2019 images from social media. To see more go to @1199SEIU on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Florida Maryland Massachusetts New Jersey New York Washington, D.C.
Around the Regions
At Labor Management Event Collaboration=Change Members from around downstate New York gathered at a midtown Manhattan hotel on Nov. 1 for a daylong discussion of best practices, labor management cooperation, and improving patient care at every level. The 1199SEIU/League Labor Management Project (LMP) Showcase of Promising Practices was a first-of-its kind event. Members and management learned about successful initiatives, brainstormed about everything from leadership development to behavioral health, and engaged in frank conversations about where relationships and efforts are falling short. The LMP was created in 1997 in response to healthcare industry changes, including the increased competition among hospitals and nursing homes driven by managed care. LMP initiatives build cooperative efforts and address issues like cost efficiencies, care models, health and safety, and crisis leadership. Today there are numerous labor management committees working in League-represented institutions throughout lower Westchester County, New York City, and on Long Island. (And for the
first time, Massachusetts 1199ers are set to participate in the LMP; members from Steward Health Care negotiated the initiative in their last contract.) Summit speakers included Employment Training and Job Security Fund Executive Director Sandi Vito; Marc Kramer, head of the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes; and 1199SEIU Secretary Treasurer Maria Castaneda, who throughout her career has been a staunch advocate for labor-management cooperation and its benefits for workers and the healthcare system. “This is not just about grievances and arbitration, but about a lot of work that can advance patient care,” she said. “It’s about what we can add at our institutions that will strengthen our Union and a proactive Union voice that addresses the changes occurring in health care.” Dr. Torian Easterling, Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Center for Health Equity and Community Wellness, was the event’s keynote speaker. Easterling drilled down into the effects of racism, poverty, and public health neglect, and praised the LMP committees’ work on
behalf of their communities and the entire City of New York. Afternoon showcases included labor/management panel discussions on smoking among nursing home residents and systemic change in safetynet hospitals. The breakouts provided space for shareable ideas, compelling questions, and honest evaluation. “This work is all about worker power and how strong we are,” said Paulette Forbes, a radiological technologist at Brooklyn’s Brookdale Medical Center. “We cannot wait for crises to happen. We must work together for the best and be prepared for the worst. This work is about turning problems into opportunities for advocacy and change.”
Members taking a moment to stretch and re-energize at Nov. 1 Labor Management Project Showcase.
The LMP was created in response to healthcare industry changes, including the increased competition among hospitals and nursing homes driven by managed care.
Healthy Homecare Workers Though they are used to looking after others, homecare workers in the Bronx, N.Y. got some sound advice on how to care for themselves at a pair of health fairs held in early October. Conducted in conjunction with the 1199 Home Care Benefit Fund and staffed by a team of registered nurses and other health professionals, the health fairs were held at the People Care and Progressive agencies. The events provided opportunities for homecare workers to receive free blood pressure checks, blood sugar tests, and nutritional counseling and advice on diet and exercise, to help them make healthier choices. The event was open to all Progressive and People Care workers, as well as other Bronx 1199ers. The borough is a leader in national rates of hypertension, obesity, smoking, and inactivity. The health fairs seek to help reverse these trends and encourage caregivers to prioritize their own health and wellness. For more information, contact your organizer or delegate or go to www.1199seiu.org. 1199 Magazine 7
Around the Regions
1986 Save Our Union Victory Celebrated Scores of 1199ers, including gray-haired retirees and fresh young activists, gathered on Oct. 25 at 1199’s New York City headquarters to celebrate and draw lessons from the 1986 Save Our Union (SOU) victory that restored the Union to its progressive past. The gathering also paid tribute to the 60th anniversary of the Union’s first hospital organizing victories and the 30th anniversary of its dramatic 1989 hospital and nursing home contract win. The event was organized by veterans of the Save Our Union campaign, the reformist movement of member activists and then-former officers and organizers. They put
together a leadership slate – led by Georgianna Johnson for president and Eddie Kay for secretary-treasurer, which defeated the incumbent slate of then-President Doris Turner. The celebration heard from some of the major SOU leaders. Two of those, Pat Harris, a former 1199 EVP, and Tom Cloutier, a Bronx SBH Health System lab technologist and 1199 executive council member, served as the event’s co-chairs. “We must translate the Save Our Union victories to today’s struggles,” declared Betty Hughley, former 1199 EVP and a principal organizer of the event. Hughley also led a moment of silence for SOU activists who have
Workers to Staten Island University Hospital: Stop PA Contract Stall! Hundreds of 1199SEIU members picketed Northwell Health’s Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH) on Oct. 2 to push the healthcare mega-system to settle a contract with physician assistants (PAs) who voted overwhelmingly for 1199 membership in an August election. Since then, Northwell has been dragging its feet at the bargaining table, even as PAs and other SIUH 1199ers insist the professionals should simply be covered under Northwell’s existing collective bargaining agreement with the Union. “Every time we meet, they don’t have answers for us,” said SIUH PA Dawn Cuttrone. “They made it 8
September-October November-December2019 2019
clear that they don’t want to put us in the National Benefit Fund, and since then we’ve had two more meetings where nothing got resolved.” Louis Jimenez, who has worked in plant operations at SIUH for 26 years, says Northwell is attempting to push the PAs out of the Union while sending a signal to all the hospital’s workers. “It’s not going to work,” he said. “We are all one big family here. Ever since Northwell took us over, they have been trying to take things away, but we won’t let them. We are going to stand up and we are going to fight—for all of us.”
passed away. “You saved our Union,” said 1199 President George Gresham at the event. He called his participation an “honor and privilege,” and stressed that all should ask themselves, “if Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, would he still refer to 1199 as his favorite union?” Another highlight was a video message from Dennis Rivera, a key SOU leader whose election to the 1199 presidency in 1989 inaugurated a period of dramatic growth and influence for the Union. A recurring theme of the celebration and its various panels was the need for sustained member mobilization to meet today’s many crises.
The Oct. 25 celebration at 1199’s New York City headquarters of the 1986 Save Our Union (SOU) victory, the 60th anniversary of the Union’s first hospital organizing victories and the 30th anniversary of its dramatic 1989 hospital and nursing home contract win.
1199ers kept the heat on at an Oct. 2 picket at NYC’s Staten Island University Hospital. The institution refuses to settle a contract with recently organized physician assistants there.
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Dates for the 2020 Primary Elections STATE
PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY ELECTION
STATEWIDE PRIMARY ELECTION
BOARD OF ELECTIONS
District of Columbia
Illustration by Regina Heimbruch
2020 is an important election year. The President of the United States, the U.S. House of Representatives, one-third of the U.S. Senate, and several state legislatures are up for re-election. Each U.S. state and territory sets its own dates and rules for registering to vote. If you wish to register, or need to reregister, go to your state’s board of elections website to learn about the registration deadlines and online or early voting opportunities, and poll sites. Listed here are web addresses for election boards in 1199’s regions as well as dates for next year’s presidential and primary elections. Don’t miss out. Register and vote.
November 3, 2020: General Election will be held in all 50 states.
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OUR YEAR IN REVIEW
2019 Looking Back. Looking Ahead.
1. Albany Lobby Day. A February lobby day brought hundreds of 1199ers to New York State’s capital to meet with lawmakers and urge them to push back on attacks on Medicaid and our publicly funded healthcare system. 2. Stop the Cuts Rally. Close to 10,000 members of 1199 marched and rallied in Albany on March 19 to protect Medicaid and Medicare from the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy. 3. Maryland’s Fight for $15. 1199ers were instrumental in passing a $15 minimum wage in Maryland in 2019. Members marched, lobbied, rallied, and testified to get the bill passed.
Throughout most of the Northeast, June is LGBTQ Pride Month, and 1199ers showed their determination to defend and celebrate the LGBTQ community.
4. Pride! Throughout most of the Northeast, June is LGBTQ Pride Month, and 1199ers showed their determination to defend and celebrate the LGBTQ community. 1199ers participated in numerous Pride events, including parades in Boston, NYC, and Albany. 5. Swearing In Our Officers & Delegates & 60 Years Since the 1959 Strike. At the June 17 swearing-in of officers and delegates in New York City, members sported an updated version of the vintage 1199 hats worn during the historic 1959 strike, which established the Union in New York City’s voluntary hospitals.
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OUR YEAR IN REVIEW
1199ers were among the millions around the world who took part in the Sept. 20 Global Climate March.
6. The 1199 Training Fund’s 50th Anniversary. 1199’s Training and Employment Funds celebrated their 50th birthday in 2019. The big 5-0 was marked with a special commemoration at the annual TEF Recognition Ceremony, held on June 11 in New York City.
7. New Jersey’s Fight to Win 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 New Jersey’s Assembly for nearly a year. The bill would create minimum staffing ratios for the 40,000 CNAs working across New Jersey. 8. Climate Marches. 1199ers were among the millions around the world who took part in the Sept. 20 Global Climate March.
9. West Indian Day Parade. 1199ers showed up and showed out for the annual West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn, NY, on Sept. 2. The parade draws close to 2 million revelers annually. The event is just one of a host of cultural parades and celebrations 1199ers participate in across the Union throughout the year. 10. 2020 Campaign Kickoff Forum. 1199ers from across the regions gathered at Union headquarters Sept. 16 to learn about and discuss 1199’s platform for 2020 and to hear from several presidential candidates, including Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Pete Buttigieg. The event was an opportunity to mobilize members and fine-tune 1199’s platform, which was devised from ongoing surveys and member conversations.
11. GOTV. 1199ers fanned out across the regions to help working-family-friendly candidates win in every region, at every level of government. 1199’s Weekend Warriors played a key role in the historic win in Virginia, where for the first time in more than a decade, Democrats control both houses and key local offices.
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OUR YEAR IN REVIEW
12. PCA Contract/ Contract Wins. 1199ers continued to flex their muscles at the bargaining table, winning exemplary contracts and fighting off management’s attempts at givebacks. Significant victories include agreements at Georgetown University and Columbia University’s Morningside Campus, as well as a major contract win for Personal Care Attendants in Massachusetts that significantly increases wages, maintains certification opportunities, expands time off, and provides an opportunity to create an employee assistance program. 13. New Organizing Victories. More that 2,500 healthcare workers voted to join 1199 in 2019, including some 1,276 at NYU Winthrop Hospital on Long Island, NY and 800 at Saint Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, MA.
1199ers continued to flex their muscles at the bargaining table, winning exemplary contracts and fighting off management’s attempts at givebacks.
After Losing Everything in a Fire, Home Health Aide Feels Lost in the System Working families are too often one paycheck away from disaster. “Reach out, before a shelter is your only option!” is the advice New York City has promoted to residents in crisis for the past five years. But what do you do when your home disappears overnight? That is the question Tracey Ann Patterson, a home health aide (HHA) at New York City’s Partners In Care agency, has been asking herself since last January when she and her three children found themselves with nowhere to go after their house burned down. They escaped with their lives and little else. The landlord had no insurance to help with replacements. With no winter clothes in the middle of January, Patterson and her three children were placed in a shelter in Brownsville, Brooklyn and were still there at press time. For 10 months, everywhere Patterson has turned to access public assistance for herself and her family, she has hit a brick wall. Because they lost their home in a fire, Patterson and her children are not technically considered homeless. This means they must live in a modified NYC Housing Preservation and Development shelter because they were ‘displaced’. With fewer of these shelters throughout the city, the family is further from their home community of Jamaica, Queens. Life is more complicated and stressful. For example, Patterson’s 17-year-old son, who has autism, must now catch a 6:15 a.m. bus to get to his school in Queens. “The only reason I didn’t end up in the Bronx is because of his school,” explains Patterson. “A Bronx shelter would have meant the city providing a school bus just for him, which the city would not do.” Her son is one of 114,085 NYC children living in a shelter. Over the past decade, the number of homeless school age children living in shelters has swelled by 70 percent. Working full time, Patterson relies on her 22-year-old daughter to drop her three-year-old off at their new daycare center, and, like many HHA’s, Patterson has also seen her hours cut, so she has less money coming in to deal with a host of crisis-related needs. “I work seven days a week,” she says, “Four hours here, four hours there. I don’t get to really be home. I take any case I can get, even if it is travel. It can be 8-9 hours a week with two hours travel each way for a four-hour shift.” Right now, Patterson has a case in Seagate, Brooklyn, which takes roughly two hours each way on public transportation.
“I earn about $1,600 a month. When I got paid last week, I had less than $15 in my account,” she says. Patterson would like to use her union education benefits to go back to school and train to be a medical assistant so she can earn more money, but with life so upside down right now, that seems impossible. “I don’t even know where I’m going to be living,” she says. The realities of life in a shelter long-term are challenging for any family, and particularly for a working family with young and school-aged children. Residents are not allowed to have cable television or wifi, which makes it hard to keep kids occupied or access the Internet for schoolwork. “I worry about my kids in this neighborhood. I don’t let them go outside. Last week there was a shooting by the L train. Jamaica wasn’t the greatest, but it wasn’t like this,” she says. Because she’s working, Patterson receives less than $400 a month in food stamps to feed her family of four. With no supermarkets close to the shelter, basics have become expensive and hard to get. “If I quit my job, they would give me everything,” says Patterson. “I would get cash assistance for daycare, $700 for daycare and they would pay my rent. But then I would lose my health care and union benefits. I’d have to start from scratch. Right now, it feels like I’m tied up in red tape. I’m not a victim of domestic violence, I am not mentally ill. I became homeless because of a fire.” Patterson has continued to press city agencies for assistance and even met with city officials who are trying to find her housing and the help she needs. She’s frustrated, but not hopeless. “The system is rigged against you. Working people in my situation are often forced to quit their job. I’m trying not to fall into that.”
Homecare worker Tracey Ann Patterson has struggled to get back on her feet after a house fire in January. New York City’s crisis intervention services have been more difficult to access than she expected, says Patterson.
“The system is rigged against you. Working people in my situation are often forced to quit their job. I’m trying not to fall into that.”
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The Work We Do WhitmanWalker Health Washington, D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Health is a community health provider specializing in LGBTQ+ and HIV care. The organization was founded in 1973 as The Gay Men’s VD Clinic and operated out of the basement of the Georgetown Lutheran Church. When the AIDS crisis of the 1980’s escalated, Whitman-Walker became a leader in education, testing, counseling, advocacy, and the provision of direct services to people with AIDS. The organization opened the country’s first gay, community-based medical unit devoted to the evaluation and diagnosis of AIDS symptoms. Over the years, the organization has expanded its footprint and its mission. Today’s Whitman-Walker provides inclusive, stigma-free care through broad-ranging medical treatments, a pharmacy, legal services, behavioral health, insurance navigation, youth and family support, and more. 1199SEIU members play an essential part in WhitmanWalker’s mission, and help care for more than 30,000 patients a year. From clerical work to education to hands-on medicine, 1199 caregivers at four locations throughout the greater D.C. area ensure that their patients are treated with dignity, respect, and love. 16
1. “We are the people between the patients, providers, and specialists. We refer people outside and help them get the services they need,” says Jisanet Gonzalez Uben, a Whitman-Walker Referrals Coordinator for three years. “I used to do administrative work at a hospital. It’s different here. I feel like there’s more patient interaction and that [we] are part of the community.
4. Prevention Programs Coordinator Faith Mitchell helps plan and execute programs related to HIV prevention. “For example, I help people start PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis, medication to help prevent HIV infection) and plan follow-up care once they’re on it,” Mitchell says. “I also go into the community and help people understand that sexual health is part of our overall health.”
2. Delegate Kelli Jenkins has been a Medical Assistant at Whitman-Walker for three years. “Working in this setting is awesome. It’s very relaxed. There is no judgment. You are free to help people be themselves, and it’s awesome.”
5. “I have a background in social research. It’s what I did in college. I was working on an HIV-related project and a biomedical research project,” says Research Specialist Blaine Smith. “A lot of what I do has to do with retention and engagement. I’m very logical, so my manager likes to throw a lot of research elements at me at one time.”
3. “For me this work shows how much we care for our patients—especially the trans community,” says Danny Mendoza, a Bilingual Public Benefits and Insurance Navigator at Whitman-Walker. “We have Spanish-speaking patients who identify as trans. I identify as nonbinary. It’s very helpful if someone can talk [to staff] about hormones or genderaffirming surgery [in their primary language]. It says ‘I got you. I understand.’”
6. Peer Testing Ambassador Camille Benbow works with clients aged 13-24. “My kind of outreach is at events. I do tabling where I try to provide information and draw youth into this space for more education,” she says.
“For me this work shows how much we care for our patients—especially the trans community,” – Danny Mendoza, Bilingual Public Benefits and Insurance Navigator Coordinator 6
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Retiree Charles Gordon at home in NJ. Though he’s scaled back his union and political activities, he can still be found at rallies and knocking on doors at election time.
“You Have to Show Up. The Union Is What the Members Make It.” New Jersey retiree Charles Gordon says good patient care starts with a strong union. Sir Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” And retired delegate Charles Gordon has always been ready to stand up for the rights of working people and the future of his union. By the time Gordon retired in 2005, he had worked as a CNA at Windsor Gardens Care Center in East Orange, NJ for nearly 30 years. “Whenever there was a call [to action], I would go,” recalls Gordon. In his long career as a union delegate, he traveled all over the U.S.— from Washington, D.C. to Detroit, MI. “I would get on a plane, train, or get in the bus or a car to go wherever the Union needed me to be,” he says. Gordon went to so many rallies for New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy that the politician would call out in the crowd: “Hi Charlie!” He’s also met New Jersey’s Sen. Cory Booker 18
(a current presidential candidate) and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. Originally from Kingston, Jamaica, where he worked as a security guard for a lumber company, Gordon was already a union man when he came to the U.S. in the early 1970s. When he wasn’t out campaigning for union-friendly elected officials, Gordon was taking an active role on picket lines and at contract negotiations. “If it wasn’t for the Union, the management at the nursing home would ignore the workers. I don’t know what would happen to us. When we went to the hotels to negotiate, I always shouted the loudest. We know that management is collecting Medicaid money. We have to fight for our share,” says Gordon. He even spent time in a prison cell during the 1980s after being arrested for lying down across the
CHARLES GORDON “I would get on a plane, train, or get in the bus or a car to go wherever the Union needed me to be.”
driveway of the nursing home during a strike. During the action, Gordon and other workers blocked trucks delivering food to the facility. Gordon also wasn’t shy about calling out any co-workers who didn’t join picket lines, particularly his West Indian sisters and brothers. “I see you there from Trinidad, St. Lucia, Antigua, and Anguilla, hiding behind the curtain,” he’d admonish them. “You mean to tell me that I am out here fighting for you, for better pay and benefits. Come down and join the line tomorrow!” Gordon also made sure that every part of the bargaining unit was involved in every action. “When I saw that the working conditions in the kitchen were bad, I went to the dining room to talk to those workers,” he says. Gordon never let his union activities interfere with his dedication to his patients and their care. He was often asked by management to sit down and talk to patients, tell them stories about where he was from, and to get friendly with their relatives. Sometimes, though, his political and professional roles overlapped. Gordon looked after the aunt of New Jersey Congressman Donald Payne at Windsor Gardens. Once, in the mid-1980s, a confused resident went for a walk outside Windsor Gardens and no one could find her. Gordon walked out after her, showing photos of her to people along the way. He eventually caught up with her three miles away from the nursing home. Once he explained who he was, the resident agreed to return with him. Now 81 years old, Gordon has scaled back his political campaigning somewhat, but is still active in Union efforts. In November he was out knocking on doors in Bergen County for New Jersey’s 1199-endorsed candidates. Gordon says he’s trying to be an example for younger members and those still on the job. “You have to show up,” he says. “The Union is what the members make it.”
Florida’s Silver Solutions Coalition Addresses the Challenges of
Long Term Care 1199ers and partners are working for better health care for older Floridians. On October 22 in Orlando, FL, more than 30 1199ers gathered with members and representatives of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Florida, the Florida Health Care Association, and Leading Age Florida for a wide-ranging discussion of the challenges facing long term care in Florida, the growing complexities facing institutional caregivers, and ways to improve support for family caregivers. The gathering of the Coalition for Silver Solutions provided an opportunity for advocates to help improve the efficiency of Florida’s long-term care system and increase funding for home and community-based care, assisted living facilities, and nursing home care. Coalition members work together on durable strategies for meeting the long-term challenges of quality health care for older Floridians. And the needs are increasingly urgent. By 2030, more than one in four Floridians will be 65 or older and the state’s over-85 population is expected to triple in the next 30 years. The interactive Summit, which was broadcast across several social media platforms, offered the public and coalition partners across the state the opportunity to hear directly from frontline professionals and policy experts. Speakers included family caregivers, professional administrators, and state officials, including Mary
“We must put our money where our mouth is and take care of our caregivers.” – Sophia Colley, CNA at Titusville Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, Titusville
Taking on Florida’s longterm healthcare challenges at the Silver Solutions Summit in Orlando on October 22.
Mayhew, Secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, and Richard Prudom, Florida’s Secretary for the Department of Elder Affairs. In his remarks, Prudom emphasized a multi-pronged approach to care that includes treatment and prevention. “The assumption that older people are a drain on resources is incorrect,” said Prudom. “Data suggests that how long we are sick adds more to costs than how old we are.” Still, the needs of Florida’s older nursing home residents are becoming more complex. Annual statewide staff turnover rates at long term care facilities are surpassing 60 percent— driven in large part by stagnant wages and increasing workloads. Lagging Medicaid reimbursement rates are
exacerbating a syndrome of existing problems. Sophia Colley, a CNA at Titusville Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Titusville, joined Lakeside Nursing and Rehab administrator Connie Bend on the Nursing Home/Professional Caregiver Perspectives panel. “A challenge I face every day is the number of residents I have to take care of,” said Colley. “Sometimes we don’t have enough staff to handle our workload and it affects our residents, who are like our family.” Colley talked about sharing holidays with residents and even planning funerals in the absence of relatives. “For what we do for our [residents], we deserve to get paid fairly,” said Colley. “Some of us can’t even afford health insurance. We must put our money where our mouth is and take care of our caregivers.” Also on the day’s agenda were policy recommendations and a conversation about home and community-based care. Florida Region Political Director Roxey Nelson said the summit was important for the future of Florida’s health and the workforce responsible for it. “This conversation about funding and providing quality care and backup for the workforce that provides care for us is really important,” said Nelson. “If people are not engaged in a conversation about this work and don’t have a say in it, we are not going to attract [future generations] to these professions.”
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NO CONTRACT? NO WAY!
Young and long-time members work together to win agreements that benefit all.
Florida nursing home workers at Avante at Boca Raton ratified a new contract in early November. The three-year agreement includes several noteworthy gains; among them are pay raises totaling 9% over the life of the 3-year agreement, higher minimum wages, additional paid time off based on seniority, and bonuses for everyone. “It feels really good to have secured this agreement,” said Nadia Louis, a certified nursing assistant and member of the bargaining team. “I have three children to support so the extra money is sorely needed and appreciated.” The wage increases are based on seniority and job classifications. The agreement also includes a one-time ratification bonus for all bargaining unit employees which includes dietary aides and porters, cooks, floor techs, maintenance assistants, laundry aides, housekeeping aides and CNAs and improves
language concerning arbitrations which members say is a huge victory. And this deal includes no givebacks. “The bargaining team did a great job,” said Louis. “We stayed unified and committed to reach our goals and I am proud of what we were able to accomplish together.” Certified nursing assistants at Susanna Wesley Health Center, a 120bed nursing home facility in Hialeah, approved a new contract that includes significant gains. Among them, higher wages and additional paid time off for longtime employees.
This agreement will benefit all of us who work hard every day to provide the best care we can to residents at the facility. – Luz De La Cruz, CNA at Susanna Wesley Health Center
“I am so thrilled that my coworkers united to approve this contract,” said Luz De La Cruz, who has worked as a CNA at the facility for 13 years. “This agreement will benefit all of us who work hard every day to provide the best care we can to residents at the facility. Avante at Boca Raton and Susanna Wesley Health Center, two south Florida nursing homes, recently won exemplary contracts. In New York at NYP Lawrence, workers made history and won coverage under the 1199 contract with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Home.
Prior to this agreement, many of the CNAs earned between $9 and $10 per hour. Under the new three-year contract, the minimum wage has increased to $12 per hour. That’s about $4,000 more annually. In addition to the higher minimum wage, a 50-cent increase was recently added to their hourly pay. “The higher pay is really appreciated,” said De La Cruz. “When you’re living on a tight budget, every penny counts.” Workers at New YorkPresbyterian Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville, NY made history in 1965, with a historic strike that won union rights for hospital workers across New York State. They did it again in August, when they successfully pressed Lawrence to join the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes, winning full coverage under 1199’s League contract. Previously independent Lawrence partnered with Presby several years ago, but until now, the hospital insisted the association with the mega-system was nominal only. “This is really good. The younger members are learning what we went through to get here and that benefits everyone. We are all stronger for it,” said Marge Ferrell, an environmental services worker who retired 10 years go and now works per diem at Lawrence. “Sometimes it was really hard, and you wanted to give up, but I said no. We had to make this happen.”
Disabled, Not Discounted 1199’s People With Disabilities Caucus works to raise disability awareness and provide more access to resources. As the 30th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) approaches, 1199ers have formed a new caucus to advocate for disabled workers, make stronger connections with the disability community, and speak out against abuse and marginalization of disabled workers. While 1199 contracts protect all members equally, disabled people in the broader workforce still face a widening pay gap and 26% fewer responses to job applications than workers without a disability. Women with disabilities face even greater hurdles: They’re half as likely as men to work full time, and when they do, they make 83% of what men make. So, on a recent rainy Thursday evening in New York City, members of 1199’s Caucus for People With Disabilities gathered around a table at the Union’s headquarters to discuss their mission, strategize about raising disability awareness, and plan events for the coming months. “1199 has been at the forefront of justice for everyone, and this new caucus will help us as a union dive more deeply into the fight for disabled people,” says Caucus President Maurice DePalo, a pharmacist at Montefiore Westchester Square Hospital. “Our organization does so much, but this can be an area of real strength for workers and the Union. In many ways, this is a new front in the fight for social justice.” Reflecting 1199’s core value of solidarity, the caucus includes disabled and non-disabled members and is dedicated to dispelling myths and misinformation about the disabled and disability rights, said 1199 Organizer Keith Johnson. Johnson is also the caucus’s liaison to the International’s Call for People With Disabilities, a monthly gathering of voices from the labor movement and disability community.
Montefiore Marble Hill Referral Coordinator Priscilla Kornegay, left, with patient Iffat MahmudKahn. Kornegay invited MahmudKahn to speak at a recent meeting of 1199’s People With Disabilities Caucus.
“It only reflects positively on our employers to hire and promote disabled people.”
“We encounter people with disabilities every day. We may not know it, because not every kind of disability is visible or physical,” he says. “Non-disabled people often don’t know what to do or how to deal with disabilities. This caucus was formed to help with that. We want disabled people to be visible and have access to the resources they need.” Iffat Mahmud-Kahn, a patient at Montefiore Marble Hill in the Bronx, was encouraged to attend the meeting by caucus member Priscilla Kornegay, a referral coordinator at Montefiore Marble Hill. Mahmud-Kahn has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. She also receives home health services for several hours a day. “I have been doing disability advocacy work since high school. In college I helped get our ATM made accessible. It’s hard because [as a disabled person] you already feel so challenged, and people often don’t feel comfortable saying what they need,” says
Mahmud-Kahn. “I hope this caucus will encourage caregivers to become advocates for their disabled patients and help get systems in place that can benefit the disabled community.” Kornegay, an 1199 delegate, says she was mobilized around disability rights after advocating for a disabled co-worker. “We are all brothers and sisters and we have to hold each other up,” says Kornegay. “If we don’t lead by example, who will?” One of Kornegay’s main objectives is to help increase workplace representation among disabled people. “It only reflects positively on our employers to hire and promote disabled people,” says Kornegay. “It shows the importance of being open to a diverse workforce and that they are taking the disability community seriously and treating disabled people with respect.” For more information about 1199’s Caucus Program, go to www.1199seiu.org/caucuses.
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How 1199 Became
A POLITICAL “ I CONTINUED TO WORK EVEN THOUGH I HAD BLISTERS ON MY FEET.” –Margie Rodriguez, former medical biller at Brooklyn’s Brookdale Hospital
Thirty years ago, some 2,000 members of 1199 worked tirelessly to help David Dinkins become New York’s first African American mayor. “Dinkins will help the working class and especially my people,” said Antonine Michaud, a Haitian-American accounts payable clerk at Manhattan’s St. Luke’s Hospital at the time. The role of 1199ers in the campaign was significant because the Union at that time was locked in bitter contract battle with New York’s League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes. One League CEO was quoted as saying at the time, “Good, we’ll kill two birds with one stone—1199 and David Dinkins.” He was wrong on both counts. The Union also won a groundbreaking contract. The Dinkins’ campaign helped establish 1199 as a major political force in the city and state. Member political mobilization actually began a year earlier when Local 1199 and the 1199 National Union endorsed the candidacy of the Rev. Jesse Jackson for president rather than wait for the AFL-CIO to decide on a primary endorsement. Some locals followed suit. In Homestead, Pa., 7,000 steelworkers defied their national union to endorse him, as did autoworkers in Wisconsin. 1199’s work helped Jackson carry New York City and to finish second in the Democratic primaries. His 1,218 delegates was the most for any runner-up at that time. His campaign laid the groundwork for many progressive candidates of color. Jackson’s New York City supporters rode the momentum of
the 1988 campaign into 1989. Many 1199ers simply exchanged Jackson literature and paraphernalia with David Dinkins material. The Union had worked closely with Manhattan Borough President David Dinkins and his chief aide, Bill Lynch, on several initiatives. It was Dinkins who championed the cause of homecare workers in the city, helping to win wage increases and improved benefits. During the primary and general election campaigns, members flooded the streets with leaflets. Many attended and provided security at rallies. Others took part in phone banks, sound trucks and signing up volunteers. And on election day, members drove voters to the polls. Mayor Dinkins was defeated in 1993 by Rudolph Giuliani. Many say that Dinkins is not given the credit he deserves. Under his administration, crime in the city decreased more dramatically than at any time in the city’s history. He also decreased the size of the city’s homeless population. And he rehabilitated more housing in a single term than Mayor Giuliani did in two terms. Throughout Mayor Dinkins’ tenure and afterwards, 1199 stepped up its political and legislative work. The Union not only helped elect worker-friendly candidates, but also helped win healthcare funding, and worker-safety and adequate staffing legislation. As 1199 did with Jesse Jackson, the Union in 1992 threw its support behind Democrat Nydia Velazquez, a little-known candidate in New York’s
12th Congressional District. In a major political upset, Velazquez won the seat to become the nation’s first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress. The nation’s Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer was the underdog when 1199 endorsed him over the popular three-term incumbent Al D’Amato in 1998. New York’s current mayor, Bill de Blasio was near the back of a crowded Democratic primary pack in 2013 when he won 1199’s endorsement. He steadily moved to the front of the pack, especially after he was arrested while protesting the closing of Long Island College Hospital. Mayor de Blasio was a veteran of the 1988 Jackson campaign, as was Patrick Gaspard, former political director of 1199. Gaspard left 1199 in 2008 to take a leading position in the Barack Obama presidential campaign. He became President Obama’s political director and later, U.S. ambassador to South Africa. In the fight for representation and legislation, 1199 has played a key role in electing progressive state and local candidates and passing progressive legislation. In Florida, Union members played a key role in restoring voting rights for formerly incarcerated Floridians. In New Jersey, 1199ers helped elect Andy Kim to the state’s 3rd Congressional District, ousting Tom MacArthur, who was instrumental in attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In New York City, former 1199 organizer and researcher Melissa Mark Viverito served as the first Puerto Rican and Latina Speaker of the New York City Council. And
Today, politicians court us.
1199’s modern history as a political powerhouse began in 1988, when the Union played a pivotal role in electing David Dinkins as NYC Mayor. The strength of the “Purple Army” has continued to grow, with 1199ers helping worker-friendly candidates in every region of the Union.
in Maryland-DC, 1199er Veronica Turner has represented District 26 in the Maryland House of Delegates since 2003. She is also an officer in Maryland’s Legislative Black Caucus. Many of 1199’s member political activists gained valuable experience working in local and national campaigns. Margie Rodriguez was a medical biller at Brooklyn’s Brookdale Hospital when she took a leave in 2008 to work on the Obama campaign. “Obama woke up the country. I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said at the time. “I worked even though I had blisters on my feet. Nothing could stop me because my heart and soul were in it.” Many other volunteers shared similar sentiments. “We went out because we all knew that we were helping to make history and changing the future,” said CNA Isata Caldwell from JFK Hospital in Edison, N.J. Retired 1199 members represent another important force in the Union’s political army. They have performed every function from door-knocking to phone banking. They and active members also have helped to make 1199SEIU’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Political Action Fund, one of the largest in the nation. Throughout its regions, 1199ers are deeply involved in state and local budget fights and election battles on many levels. Today members are getting ready to step up in 2020 to participate in one of the most consequential elections in generations and to add another chapter to 1199’s remarkable political history.
1199 Magazine 23
The Work We Do 1199 members like Dwayne LawsonBrown (left) and Camille Benbow (right) at Washington, D.C.â€™s Whitman-Walker Health offer loving, dignified and inclusive care to the capital regionâ€™s LGBTQ+ community and beyond. See pages 16-17.
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1199 Magazine November / December 2019 Looking Back Looking Ahead Our Year in Review