A Journal of 1199SEIU September-October 2018
Election Day is Nov. 6
NYC Labor Day Parade
UMH Contract Win
NH Workers in Danger
DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR! DATE FOR DATE! September-October 2018
Thousands of nursing home workers from institutions represented by the Greater NY Health Care Facilities Association held an
informational picket on Oct. 10 to demand that bosses stop playing games and settle a fair contract now. See story on page 14.
3 Editorial: The powerful do not pull 1199’s strings. 5 The President’s Column Do nothing on Election Day and we lose everything.
6 Around the Regions NYC Labor Day Parade; Massachusetts member raises money for cancer research; picnic for NJ AristaCare members. 8 We Can Flip Congress The Purple Army is on the move.
@1199seiu www.1199seiu.org 2
11 Contracts Solidarity wins success in wage re-opener at University of Miami Hospital. 12 Contracts: #Better4Who? NYU’s contract offer is a bill of goods. 14 Dollar 4 Dollar. Date 4 Date. Nursing Home members fight for parity. 15 Strong’s Witness to History Alberta Miller has over 60 years of service. 16 The Work We Do Montefiore’s School Health Workers serve NYC’s poorest kids.
19 Make an ImPACt Our PAC dollars at work. 20 Nursing Home Workers in Danger Changes in patient population bring new peril for long term care workers. 22 The Opioid Crisis Fighting addiction epidemic with treatment and policy change.
1199 Magazine September-October 2018 Vol. 36, No. 5 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: Those Pulling the Strings Think We’re at Their Mercy But 1199ers have never been afraid to speak truth to power It often seems like we’re living in the movie Groundhog Day: re-living over and over the same events. Every day we hear about another insult, incursion, erasure or minimization. We find ourselves defending against newly sharpened attacks on gains we may have long considered settled: the right to vote; clean air and water; our children and families’ safety in our neighborhoods; our country’s pride in being the “melting pot.” With the current group in power in Washington, D.C. and statehouses across the country, everything feels up for grabs and those pulling the strings think we’re all at their mercy. But 1199SEIU members know different. Our members have never been afraid to speak truth to power. 1199ers spoke out against the War in Vietnam, marched for civil rights in the Jim Crow south, led the fight to protect the Affordable Care Act, and stared down hospital bosses determined to keep institutions “union free.” In many ways, this moment in history is no different. Alberta Miller, a secretary at University of Rochester’s Strong Medical Center, has for 60 years been a leader in the struggle. Miller has been undeterred by intimidation rooted in racism, sexism and ignorance. She was recently honored for her staunch trade unionism and dedication to improving the lives of others. “My parents taught me about respect and dignity,” she says. “I’m all about giving, as well as receiving it.” Members who work at NYU Langone Medical Center sites throughout New York City follow Ms. Miller’s example. Not too long ago, management at the mega system decided they no longer wanted to be held to the same contract standards they’d been negotiating for years with workers. The wealthy institution threatened, cajoled and even pleaded with its powerful board of directors to force the Union to accept terms that could put members’ benefits at risk. Did 1199ers run scared? No way. Instead, they turned out by the thousands at Sept. 27 pickets across NYC and held fast at the bargaining table. They reminded management about who burnishes the hospital’s reputation and fill its coffers. “The main point is that we just want this settled in a fair way; that’s all we’re asking for,” said Juan Maldonado, a specialized nursing assistant at NYU Langone Brooklyn. “They are forgetting that we are the ones who keep this hospital elite.” At University of Miami Hospital (UMH), a new wage
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
art direction & design Maiarelli Studio cover photograph
Jim Tynan contributors
agreement is an object lesson in Union solidarity and challenging conventional wisdom. At the struggling Florida hospital —in a right to work state— UMH workers collaborated with management and each other to win significant raises and bonuses and help the institution on a new path to address patient care, infrastructural needs and staff retention. “I saw people whose eyes were opened by seeing what we could achieve by working together,” says UMH RN Elizabeth Jazon, a negotiating committee member. And in his column, President Gresham reminds how vital our vote and our involvement are on this Election Day. Our work can stop this current, ruthless “slow motion coup d’état,” he says. CNA Melinda Marchetti, a Member Political Organizer in Attleboro, MA agrees. She’s working every day to fight the cancer of division in our country and clip the strings of wealthy political puppeteers: “Bringing people together and helping empower them for a good cause is what our union work is all about.”
Naeem Holman JJ Johnson Bryn Lloyd-Bollard Erin Mei Tobias Packer 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.
1199 Magazine 3
Social Media & Letters
1199SEIU NEW JERSEY: 1199 is proud to join our #immigrant sisters and brothers from across NJ to call for the right to #driverslicenses for all qualified drivers regardless of their immigration status!
@1199SEIU_NJ: “In a #nursinghome, every department relies on the next department. If CNAs are working short and can’t feed residents in time, it backs up the kitchen and delays meals. That’s why I’m taking action for the #CNA #safestaffing bill!” —Carol Witherspoon, dietary aide. #A382
1199SEIUFLORIDA: Our healthcare workers are excited and eager to continue to help get out the vote for Andrew Gillum, our endorsed candidate for Governor. In a webinar today with SEIU members from across the U.S, Gillum pledged to fight for affordable health care, higher wages and take other actions to help uplift working families. #WeCareForFL #VoteForFreedomFL
@1199SEIU_NJ: 1199 #nursinghome workers at Marcella Center in Burlington, NJ, are calling on Genesis Healthcare to invest in #goodjobs for caregivers. No more delay—everyone deserves decent benefits and wages to support their families! Don’t treat #nurses as second-class workers!
1199SEIU: Elsa Lopez an HHA at Cooperative Home Care getting ready to march with her sisters and brothers in 1199 @domincanparadeusa.
1199SEIUFLORIDA: What a powerful and moving experience to unite with communities across the globe to demand action on climate, jobs and justice. #MiamiRising2018 #WeCareForFL #WeCareForMotherEarth #RiseForClimate
@1199SEIU: Members Michael Guevarez and Margaret Edwards @ NYC #LDP2018 “I want to make sure we keep the #union alive,” says Edwards.
In the July/August issue, we incorrectly stated that technical workers at Northern Westchester Hospital voted in June to join 1199; Northern Westchester technical workers voted to join the union in April. The hospital’s residual unit voted to join in June. A photo with the article identified workers shown as Northern Westchester technicals. The image is workers from Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, NY.
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.
As Real as It Gets
Do nothing on Election Day and we could lose everything.
The President’s Column by George Gresham
Sisters and Brothers, there are only a few days to go before Election Day, when the fate of our families, communities and country will be decided. For those of you who know the game of poker (I’m not encouraging it), there sometimes comes a point at the end of the evening when someone calls “table stakes.” This means that all the players are betting all their money on the next hand of cards: everyone is all in. That’s where we are in the political life of our country. Right now, both houses of Congress and the White House are controlled by far-right wing, workerhostile politicians. We have just gone through a shameful power-grab by these same forces to hijack democracy and turn the U.S. Supreme Court into a wholly-owned subsidiary of their interests and corporate America. After denying even a hearing, let alone a vote, to President Obama’s nominee to the Court, the GOP-controlled Senate is allowing President Trump, who lost the popular election by three million votes, to appoint (at least) two justices to the Court. These people will determine what is “constitutional” for the next generation. We are witnessing nothing less than a slow-motion coup d’état. If it wasn’t clear before, we now know the ruthlessness of these people. Everything is on the line. That is not an overstatement. So, on Tuesday, November 6, it’s table stakes for us. President Trump is not on the ballot, but hundreds of his supporters are. And if they win, they are coming after the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and Medicare, and Social Security. They’ll also be coming for our collective bargaining rights, our occupational safety and health, the minimum wage, and family leave. These people aim to destroy immigrant rights, voting rights, reproductive rights, civil rights, LBGTQ rights and to dismantle every progressive initiative
of the last century. At risk are our public schools, Children’s Health Insurance Programs (CHIP), the U.S. Postal Service, and basic laws protecting our air and water. How do we know this? Because they keep saying so. They’ve already made a big head start in just the first two years of the Trump presidency. But at the same time, if we do what we need to do and take care of business, we can finally begin to turn our country around. We can make history, for example, by electing progressive governors like Ben Jealous in Maryland, Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacey Abrams in Georgia. The entire House of Representatives is up for election; so is one third of the Senate. If we take back Congress, we will have built a wall against the Trump presidency and the drive to turn back the clock. For several months, the news media has been talking about the possibility of a Blue Wave and Democrats taking back the House of Representatives, and perhaps the Senate. Public opinion polls back up the talk, but that’s just chatter and polls. Remember what the polls were telling us up to Nov. 6, 2016? We woke up on November 7 with Donald J. Trump as our next president.
All of us must vote on November 6. In these days before the election, we’ve got to be talking with our family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers and the folks who worship where we worship.
So, this isn’t the time for apathy or leaving things for another day or to someone else. Forget the talk and the polls. There will be a Blue Wave only if we make it happen. All of us must vote on November 6. In these days before the election, we’ve got to be talking with our family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers and the folks who worship where we worship. We’ve got to make time for phone calls and door-knocking. (Your delegate or organizer can give you times and places.) Most important, we’ve got to act like we’re fighting for our lives because that’s exactly what we’re doing. For real. 1199 Magazine 5
Around the Regions Claire Conroy (center) with some of her co-workers from Brockton VNA in MA. In August, Conroy cycled hundreds of miles across Massachusetts and raised almost $5,000 for cancer research.
What started as a local charity ride now attracts thousands of cyclists from all over the world. MASSACHUSETTS
LPN Cycles for a Cure Claire Conroy, an LPN at the Visiting Nurse Association in Brockton, MA, was among the 6,300 cyclists who participated in Pan Mass Challenge (PMC), an annual marathon bike ride across Massachusetts that raises money for cancer research. This year’s race was the first week-
end in August. Conroy rode approximately 122 miles, starting at Babson College in Wellesley, near Boston, and finishing in Provincetown, on the tip of Cape Cod. She raised $4,800. Last year, ride representatives presented The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute with a check for $51 million in support of cancer research. (The Jimmy Fund is
another major fundraising recipient.) The PMC was founded in 1980 by Billy Starr as a cancer research fundraising ride with dozens of friends. Starr’s mother was at the time fighting melanoma. What started as a local charity ride now attracts thousands of cyclists from all over the world. Riders sign up for one of 13 cycling routes and commit to raising donations of $600 to $8,000. Conroy rode for a full weekend and covered much of the southeastern Bay State. “I didn’t even own a bike when I started this,” says Conroy referring to the borrowed set of wheels she used in her first PMC in 2005. “I have friends who have been doing this for over 25 years and I remember going down to the Boston Maritime Academy to cheer them on.” Conroy says she is inspired by the generosity and creativity of riders and donors. “Last year we held a 5 (Foot)K because we figured everyone can run five feet,” she says. “A lot of it is social networking and the fact that cancer touches everyone. It’s amazing.” Conroy and her family have not been spared: “My dad was diagnosed with lung cancer and one of my good friends died of cancer in 2010. We did a breast cancer walk together, and after she died I said I wanted to do something bigger in her memory.” The PMC is it. Conroy has so far raised more than $70,000 for cancer research and has no plans on stopping. “It’s daunting, but it’s worth it,” she says.
#BlackExcellence: NYC African American Day Parade
Raimundo Valdes Photo
1199ers joined in the 49th Annual African American Day Parade, which was held this year on Sept. 16 in New York City. The celebration of African American pride and history wended its way through the historic village of Harlem, led by Clark Atlanta University’s Mighty Marching Panthers. Some 200 organizations participated, including 1199SEIU, the National Action Network and the NAACP. With this year’s theme, “Culture Is Key” parade organizers sought to honor “individuals and organizations that have made key contributions to furthering the dignity, determination and excellence of African American culture.”
Florida Maryland Massachusetts New Jersey New York Washington, D.C.
NYC Labor Day Parade: New York Is A Union Town!
NJ Workers Say Nursing Home Management is AristaCareless.
Photo: Carolina Kroon
from its previous owner, Hospicomm. Workers making $12 an hour found themselves facing health care premiums of $1,000 a month. Unable to afford basic health coverage, many simply chose to go without. Even a pre-Christmas delivery of coal to management failed to move the AristaGrinches. Workers at the September picnic were joined by Linden Mayor Derek Armstead and Councilmen Imam Alfred Mohammed and John Francis Roman.
LI Homecare Picnic 1199SEIU hosted its Second Annual Homecare Picnic on Long Island, NY, August 25 at Hicksville’s Cantiague Park. The event was open to union and non-union homecare workers from the Long Island area. The day gave workers a chance to share a little rest and relaxation as well as learn about the Union. Kids of all ages enjoyed games, barbeque, arts and crafts, a selfie station and more. 1199SEIU Benefits and Education representatives were available to answer any questions. “We work hard for our patients, so let’s take some time to relax and enjoy each other,” said Northwell Health Home Health Aide Sheryl Perkins.
Photo: Raimundo Valdes
Members of 1199SEIU New Jersey from AristaCare at Delaire, AristaCare at Cedar Oaks, AristaCare at Norwood Terrace, and AristaCare at Manchester gathered September 15 for a day of fun, relaxation and solidarity. Workers at the Arista Care institutions have for months been fighting for fair contracts. At Delaire Gardens in Linden, for example, workers had their sick time and benefits slashed after the facility was purchased
1199SEIU members joined scores of unions and thousands of marchers at the New York City Labor Day Parade on September 8. The procession of contingents and floats represented just about every worker classification and profession in New York City’s metropolitan area. The cloudy sky and light drizzle did little to dampen spirits at the annual celebration of working life in New York City. Michael Guevarez, a recreational aide at the Bensonhurst Center in Brooklyn, was among the first-time marchers at the parade. “Being here felt especially important with everything happening today, particularly the Janus decision,” said Guevarez. “It’s important for all of us to come out for labor as often as we can. We all need to come out and represent New York City as a union town.”
1199 Magazine 7
WE MOBILIZE OUR ARMY OF POLITICAL ORGANIZERS AND ACTIVISTS
Increased voter turnout in midterm elections can flip Congress. 1199ers are fired up. Throughout electoral districts in 1199’s regions, Member Political Organizers (MPOs) and volunteers, including waves of Weekend Warriors, are knocking on doors, calling voters, handing out literature and joining hands with democratic and progressive allies to shake up state capitals and the U.S. Congress. Democrats need to flip 23 Republican seats to reclaim the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. At press time at least 60 Republican-held seats were in play. The more daunting task of flipping the Senate is also considered within reach. During what’s being dubbed “the Year of the Woman” 1199 is supporting many progressive woman candidates, including community-based first timers and healthcare advocates. “Bringing people together and helping to empower them for a good 8
cause is what union work is all about,” says Melinda Marchetti, a CNA at Next Step NH in Attleboro, Massachusetts. Marchetti is part of a team of Bay State members who helped to produce a record turnout for the September 4 primaries. Since then, 1199 has endorsed over 30 candidates, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a champion for workers and consumers. “I became active after joining the Union nine years ago,” says MPO and Boston PCA Kilra Hylton. “After taking a class on fighting for a fair economy, my eyes were completely opened, and I was off and running.” Hylton and other 1199ers also have been calling voters in other states as part of the #TakeBackCongress campaign. MPOs also connect their political work to union building. “I’m not just helping the Democratic ticket, my work is also about Together We Rise,” says Brian
“IF WE ALL COME TOGETHER AS A TEAM, WE CAN MAKE THINGS HAPPEN.”
Johnson, a patient access rep at Boston Medical Center. “I figure out where people are and meet them there. Engagement helps to keep me going.” In New York State, which also saw a record turnout in the September primaries, 1199ers are focusing on flipping four congressional and two key state senate seats. The senate victories would give Democrats the leadership of Albany’s upper chamber and most likely propel the first African American woman, Andrea StewartCousins, to the majority leader post. The Democratic ticket victory, led by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a staunch friend of 1199, would also give the state its first African American woman attorney general, Letitia (Tish) James, another Union ally. 1199 Magazine spoke to several New York 1199SEIU canvassers during the September primary races. Among them was first-timer, Fanny Gomez,
a Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital patient transporter. “Young people really do want to know what’s going on in politics,” she explained. “We all want a better future. But we often must choose between work and school.” Another young member, Jose Garcia, a dietary worker at Gracie Square Hospital in Manhattan, sees political work as insurance for the future. “Without strength and electing people who support us in this work, it will become harder for people to organize and become part of the Union,” he stressed. Gomez, Garcia and a diverse army of 1199ers will be pounding the pavement for Congressional candidates in the general election. In the First Congressional District (CD) on Long Island, members are working for Democratic challenger Perry Gershon, a businessman,
against GOP incumbent Lee Zeldin. In the Island’s Second CD, the Union is backing Democrat Liuba Grechen Shirley against Peter King. Grechen Shirley is a young activist who has worked for non-profits. In the Hudson Valley’s Nineteenth Congressional District, Antonio Delgado, an African American lawyer and Rhodes scholar, is challenging arch-conservative Rep. John Faso. And in central New York’s Twenty Second CD, Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi is running against steadfast Trump supporter Rep. Claudia Tenney. In the Hudson Valley’s Thirty-Ninth Senate District (SD), members are campaigning for Assemblyman James Skoufis against Tom Basile in a longheld Republican seat. In the Fiftieth SD, another traditionally Republican seat, the Union is supporting Democrat John Mannion, a biology
teacher and healthcare advocate, against Republican Bob Antonacci. New York activists will also be dispatched across the river to New Jersey, where the Union is targeting three Republican-held CDs. In Jersey’s Third CD, Andy Kim, a former Obama national security adviser, is challenging incumbent Tom MacArthur. In the Seventh CD Tom Malinowski, another former Obama State Department official, is challenging incumbent Leonard Lance. In the Eleventh CD Mikie Sherrill, a former federal prosecutor and Navy pilot, is facing Assemblyman Jay Webber for the seat being vacated by Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen. “We need to elect Mikie to make sure that we move things in the right direction.” says Jerry Christensen, a CNA at Crystal Lake Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Bayville, who has canvassed for Sherill. “I’ve
1199ers with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Gillum is making a historic bid to become Florida’s first African American governor.
1199 Magazine 9
been in the health field for over 32 years and I’ve seen a lot of changes over time, like staffing levels getting worse.” Darlene Brown, a CNA at AristaCare at Delaire, who has also been working for Sherill, agrees: “Politics isn’t just for politicians. It’s for us. If we all come together as a team we can make things happen.” In Maryland, 1199ers are attempting to make history by helping
to elect the state’s first African American governor; longtime friend of 1199 and former president of the NAACP Ben Jealous is challenging incumbent Republican Larry Hogan. Members in the MD-DC district plan to register 1,200 members as voters while signing up 700 new PAC contributors. Activists significantly helped increase the primary turnout four years ago, which bodes well for the Jealous
Top: 1199ers with Ben Jealous who is looking to unseat Republican Larry Hogan in the Maryland governor’s race. NJ congressional candidate Mikie Sherrill, a former federal prosecutor and Navy pilot, with members of her purple army.
campaign’s goal of getting a million Democratic voters to the polls. Jealous himself is no stranger to GOTV work. Years ago, he worked with Stacey Abrams of Georgia, whose bid to become the nation’s first African American woman governor is being supported by 1199 and a host of progressive allies. Denisha Proctor, a unit associate at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital has been working for Jealous. “Once you realize that politics is not just what you watch on TV, but about your own life, you become active,” she says. “Ben Jealous is different than most politicians. He represents the change that we need. When we knock on doors, we’ve been getting a lot of support for him.” Florida 1199ers are working for another historic first. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a young progressive African American, is running for governor against archconservative and Trump supporter Ron DeSantis, who resigned his seat in the House to focus on the race. MPOs are working throughout the state to get out the vote. “We’re supporting Andrew Gillum not only because he is the first African American to run for governor,” says MPO Kaydra Bonamy, a CNA at Terra Vista Rehabilitation and Health Center in Orlando. “He’s also our choice because he’s pro-union in a right-towork state. He is against slave wages. He believes health care is a right, not a privilege. And he will stand up against Trump.” Florida 1199ers are also working to return Democrat Bill Nelson to the Senate. He is locked in a tight race with multi-millionaire Rick Scott, the current governor. Penny Ceasar, an MPO and unit clerk at West Side Regional Medical Center in Plantation, is optimistic. “Political work is my passion,” she says. “And we’ve been getting good responses.” Bonamy agrees. Her attitude reflects those of the MPOs: “I’m confident because we have a great team working on the campaign.”
Florida Partnership Yields
Results Contract success at University of Miami Hospital is a lesson in solidarity.
Last year, when 1199SEIU and the University of Miami Hospital (UMH) began bargaining wages for the first year of the three-year collective bargaining agreement, the hospital was $64M in debt and hemorrhaging experienced staff. By collaborating with UMH, 1199ers this summer successfully completed a wage reopener of last year’s contract that includes raises for most of the bargaining unit and paves a new path to address patient care, the institution’s infrastructural needs, and retention of highly skilled staff. “It was a really good experience,” says Service Response Representative Chiquita Brunson. “This was not my first time sitting at a bargaining table. I can say this was a little more intense. We were talking about money, but it was also definitely more of a partnership with management. It was a hard conversation to have, but we were able to work things out.” Since re-launching the labor-management partnership at UMH in 2012, 1199ers have approached negotiations and problem solving with a robust sense of collaboration. The hospital was among the first in Florida to establish a $10.10 per hour minimum wage (now at $11.00). Cooperative efforts have yielded marked success in overall patient satisfaction, including reduced patient wait times and improvements in wound care.
Negotiating committee members at the University of Miami Hospital worked collaboratively with management and settled wage increases of as much as 23%.
“We were talking about money, but it was also definitely more of a partnership with management. It was a hard conversation to have, but we were able to work things out.”
The new wage agreement was ratified in July and covers 2,150 UMH workers. The wage provision includes a 2%, across-the-board raise for employees who are fairly compensated in their title, given experience and market conditions, and increases of up to 23% for those who are in critical and difficult-to-fill positions or who earn less than or close to employees with less experience, licensure or years of service. Some RNs received higher increases to harmonize RN pay system-wide. Employees whose current rate is higher than the maximum for their classification received a lump sum bonus. (Per diems receiving fair and flat rates and those who already received a second pay raise did not receive an increase.) Brunson notes that raises did not necessarily meet everyone’s expectations. “But I explained to them that we have got to start somewhere; this is just the beginning of the road and we need to have somewhere to go [with increases],” she says. “I think people understood and they really stepped up.” To fairly distribute resources earmarked for raises, workers and union staff gathered and analyzed a trove of data related to local healthcare trends in staffing, training, standards, salaries, wage compression and other factors. “We knew we had to get wage
comparisons and we got them,” says Ekco Tech Sarah Campbell. “The main part was the anxiety around management’s response.” “The committee’s work effectively demonstrated the deleterious effect wage compression has on retention,” says RN Henry Pouerie. “We had a lot of nurses go work at other institutions and it was a real drain on the organization. The hospital was losing employees and having a tough time filling positions. South Florida is very competitive,” says Pouerie, a negotiating committee member. 1199SEIU VP Dequasia Canales emphasized the critical role of worker solidarity: “We had people who were willing to take a little less so others could get higher raises.” Negotiating Committee Member Elizabeth Jazon, a UMH RN for 10 years, received a lump sum but was unfazed, citing the priority of the collective in trade unionism. “We are one team. We have one voice. As a delegate and executive council member I knew I wasn’t there just to fight for me,” says Jazon. “I knew I needed to be there for my co-workers. I kept it positive. I saw people there whose eyes were opened when they saw what could be achieved by us working together.”
1199 Magazine 11
NYU LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER WANTS IT BOTH WAYS And 1199 members ask the hospital giant: This contract is #Better4Who?
In its slick advertising campaign, NYU Langone Medical Center promises the institution is #MadeForNY. 1199ers want to know exactly which New York because it sure isn’t one for working people. 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, health care, pension and other benefits.) But in March 2016, mid-contract, NYU withdrew from the League and moved to bargain independently with
1199SEIU. The 1199SEIU Benefit Fund, in turn, issued notice that the megasystem would have to begin paying non-League rates for workers’ benefit and pension coverage. A struggle ensued, with NYU claiming its effort was to “negotiate directly on behalf of our workers and patients.” The National Labor Relations Board disagreed and issued a complaint alleging the hospital’s mid-term contract withdrawal violated the National Labor Relations Act. NYU refused to back down and threatened to balance their books on workers’ backs; unless they got a better rate, said hospital officials, they’d make up cost differentials in reductions to raises and health benefits.
Andrew Lichtenstein Photo
“Anytime workers don’t have a fair contract, it affects our whole community. It not only affects us but residents and their families.”
“NYU has not been fair in coming to the table. We are dedicated. We give our whole lives to this institution,” says negotiating committee member Maria Diaz, a clinical laboratory scientist at NYU Brooklyn in Sunset Park. “What they are trying to do is unionbusting. If they really want to do better by their employees, then they should come to the table and negotiate honestly.”
TRUSTEES REJECT NYU’S END-RUN ATTEMPT
NYU workers, infuriated by the hospital’s clear, long-term strategy of breaking the union and benefit rollbacks, have been voicing their anger at community gatherings, walk-ins and this summer’s League contract negotiations. Most recently, thousands of NYU workers and their supporters turned out on Sept. 27 for a raucous, multi-site informational picket.
Hundreds of 1199ers at NYU Langone Brooklyn in Sunset Park took to the picket line Sept. 27 to demand a fair contract. 1199ers at the Sept. 27 picket at NYU’s main hospital in Manhattan asking: Better4WhoseNY?
Despite a fraying relationship, contract negotiations between NYU and 1199 commenced in August. The institution immediately made known its intention of pursuing special treatment and even brought the issue before the hospital’s board of trustees, which rejected management’s pitch for reduced benefit payments. Union negotiating committee members expressed frustration with the institution’s unwillingness to seriously approach proposals for the system’s pro-techs and RNs and NYU’s hardball tactics around core issues like benefits and wages. “NYU always gives us a hard
time,” said Edgardo Rivera, a patient escort at NYU Tisch in Manhattan. “They make things difficult for us, but at the end of the day we won’t sign anything unless it’s a fair contract.” Reina Cintron, a certified surgical technologist with 23 years at the hospital, was infuriated by the hospital’s refusal to acknowledge workers’ contribution to the institution. “People are afraid of losing their benefits and pensions. Changes in our health coverage could put a real strain on people,” said Cintron at an April 19 community meeting in Manhattan. “People will have to pay for things they just can’t afford.” At press time, negotiations were ongoing. Workers were holding the line. “Of course we’re going to keep up this fight. What else can we do?” says Juan Maldonado, a Recovery specialized nursing assistant at NYU Brooklyn. “I have been a member of this union for 10 years and the main point is that we just want this resolved in a fair way. That’s all we are asking for. They forget that we are the ones who keep these hospitals elite.”
1199 Magazine 13
“Everything we have won, they want to take back, and it’s not fair. We are going to fight for what we deserve because we know they have it. We are going to show them that unity is power.”
Nursing Home Workers Aren’t
Second Class Citizens Members demand contract parity: dollar for dollar and date for date!
Tired of being treated like second class citizens, 199SEIU nursing home workers in New York and New Jersey are bringing fire to contract negotiations and demanding equal treatment for the work they do. This summer, 1199SEIU longterm care members kicked off contract negotiations with two employer associations, the Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association (GNY) and the Group of 64. The two trade associations represent approximately 185 non-profit and for-profit 14
Sept. 27 picket at Citadel NH in the Bronx. Workers turned up the heat in the fight for a fair contract.
long-term care institutions through throughout New York City, Long Island, Westchester and the Lower Hudson Valley. Talks with Group and GNY commenced in August, on the heels of 1199’s July settlement with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Nursing Homes. The League contract provides three 3% wage increases and secures pensions and no-cost health benefits for 40,000 hospital and nursing home workers in the Greater New York Metropolitan area. The 30,000 long-term care workers at Group and GNY facilities took notice and made clear their intention to secure an agreement that reflective of the League contract standards. Bosses immediately pushed back and demanded changes in health benefits, refused to respond to wage proposals and made clear their intention not to move on staffing issues. “Our biggest challenges are wages, benefits and staffing. We also have an issue with agency workers. It’s gotten so much worse. I started doing this work in my twenties and it was never like this. We really have had to fight to win the changes we need,” said CNA Audrey Stokes, a negotiating committee member from Palm Gardens Nursing Home in Brooklyn Negotiating committee member Doreen Hannigan, an LPN at Smithtown Rehab on Long Island, says in her 41 years as a caregiver she’s never seen such desperate staffing conditions. “Staffing is so critical, and they just walked away from it. Things have become horrendous over the last few years. It’s awful to tell someone they
are going to have to work short, because it’s so stressful. We know what it means,” she affirms. Hannigan calls management’s staffing position a slap in the face to workers and patients. Workers are clear that they aren’t asking for special treatment, just what they need to provide patient care: a fair wage, secure health care and safe staffing. “They don’t understand how physically demanding our job is,” says GNY negotiating committee member David Melchionne-Martine Martinez, a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant at Triboro Rehab in the Bronx. “I’m 29 years old, and I’ve already had surgery on both feet because of the wear and tear on my body. We do physical work that requires physical care for workers.” Management’s response so far has been to punt, saying they can’t discuss wages or benefits until they receive funding from New York State’s budget settlement. Workers call that a red herring, pointing out that it was thousands of 1199SEIU members we travelled to Albany on a snowy March day to secure those resources for tightfisted owners. Furious workers aren’t backing down. On Oct. 10, thousands of workers at over 100 GNY facilities held raucous informational pickets to pressure management and inform the public about what’s happening inside their institutions. “Management has been denying us. Everything we have won they want to take back and it’s not fair,” said Kathleen Moncrieffe, a CNA at Citadel Rehab in the Bronx. “We are going to fight for what we deserve because we know they have it. We are going to show them that unity is power.” At press time, GNY workers were back at the bargaining table with management. And they were united in holding the line. “We work hard for everything we have, and we have worked hard for everything we’ve achieved,” says Michelle Meyers, a CNA at Split Rock Nursing Home in the Bronx. “We are not giving anything back.”
Calm in the Middle of the Storm Today, there are many workers in 1199SEIU shops who can talk about workplace conditions before the nation’s most powerful healthcare union organized their institution. But there may be only one active member who can talk about circumstances in the workplace before 1199 was a hospital workers’ union. Alberta Miller, a medical secretary in the pulmonary unit of Rochester (NY) Medical Center’s Strong Memorial Hospital, was honored in June by 1199 Rochester for her 60 years of steadfast service. When Miller entered the workplace in 1958, basic office equipment included manual typewriters and rotary phones. The Xerox machine would not be introduced for another year, computers and the internet were the stuff of science fiction and 1199, then a small drugstore workers’ union, had not yet organized its first hospital. Miller can attest to the workplace culture of sexism, racism and general mistreatment of office workers depicted in “Hidden Figures” and “Mad Men.” “Many times over the years, I’ve had to bite my tongue and swallow hard,” she says. “My parents taught me the importance of respect and dignity,” she emphasizes. “I’m all about giving it as well as receiving it.” Miller spent her first five years at Strong as an LPN in OB/GYN department before getting the coveted position of secretary. “Alberta was one of the first women of color to attain a patient unit secretary position,” says 1199 Rochester VP Bruce Popper. “For multiple generations of young patient unit secretaries, she has been their role model and trainer.”
Photo: Robert Kirkham
Rochester secretary has been a stalwart of justice and professionalism for 60 years.
Miller never considered herself a leader and though she shunned the spotlight, her example shone bright. She eagerly dedicated herself to activities that improved not only her status but also that of her coworkers. That was so in 1973 when the Congress of Racial Equality, a major civil rights organization at the time, contacted 1199 to suggest that the union investigate discriminatory employment practices and poor working conditions at Strong. 1199 answered the call and assigned a young staffer, Larry Fox, to help organize the workers. Out of the historic organizing drive emerged a generation of leaders including Miller and Mattie Best, who led both the organizing and contract campaigns. Miller served as one of Best’s key lieutenants. Best, who passed away in 2013, is remembered as the member most responsible for planting the Union flag at Strong, and through that, improving the conditions for other hospital workers in the region. “I didn’t hesitate to join the campaign because I knew the importance of having a union,” Miller says. “I was confident that it would improve our conditions. My late husband worked at Wegman’s Warehouse and was a member of the Teamsters Union. He told me that
Secretary, Rochester Medical Center’s Strong Memorial Hospital
“I’m all about the respect and dignity we all deserve.”
every worker should belong to a union. I attended meetings and I learned a lot from Mattie. She was more than a coworker, she was also my friend. “I’ve always believed in working hard and doing my very best,” she says. “I also tell young workers that it’s easier to win your fight when you’re right and you’ve gained the respect of others—for example, having a good work record. I believe in listening before speaking, and when you speak, it should be done respectfully.” Miller’s work life is mirrored by her personal life. Her long tenure at Strong is surpassed by her 62 years at Good Will Missionary Baptist Church, which she attended with her three daughters and late husband. She says that the principles that guide her work and behavior at the workplace are consistent with those in her private life. “I believe in giving. My husband used to say, ‘you’re never going to have anything because you’re always giving.’” His warning did not stop her. Miller has not said when she’ll retire, but when she does, her example and leadership will be missed. “Alberta is a woman who is short of stature and tall on principle,” says VP Popper. “She does not hesitate to stand up and speak out when something is wrong.”
1199 Magazine 15
THE WORK WE DO
Montefiore Medical Center’s School Health Program consists of 27 school-based health centers located in elementary, middle and high schools throughout the Bronx, NY. Coordinated through the New York City Department of Education, the program is the largest of its kind in the country, serving some 40,000 kids throughout 92 schools. School health support teams consist of physicians, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, community health workers and clerical workers. (Dental services are also available through the program.) 1199SEIU represents the Montefiore caregivers working in the program, many of whom live in the districts they serve. With more than half of Bronx residents living in high or extreme poverty, school health program workers provide critical services to some of the nation’s poorest children and young adults. 1199 Magazine recently visited the program’s Walton site in the North Bronx neighborhood of Bedford Park. There, 1199ers serve a campus of 4,000 kids enrolled in five high schools and one middle school.
1. “My name is Zouhir, but everyone here calls me Zee,” says Patient Care Technician Zouhir Maaloum. “I worked at Montefiore’s Castle Hill Clinic for 23 years before coming here a year ago. Every day is different. Some days are crazy, and some are calm. School has just started so every day is crazy. Working here is like having kids and watching them grow up. ” 2. “All things come together in this setting: students’ emotional, physical and mental health,” says LCSW-R Christine Lima, a social worker at Walton for 17 years.
3. LPN Virginia Sepulveda has worked in the Montefiore system for 23 years. She spent 16 years working in Women’s Health before switching over to schools. “My day is hectic. We serve a lot of kids here. I usually see them when they’re not feeling well, but I also have kids with chronic illnesses like diabetes and kids who come to see us for vaccines and sports physicals and clearance. Our kids have an ongoing relationship with [us].”
“The kids here are my neighborhood kids. I see a lot of them in the area, and I recognize them, and they recognize me.” – LPN Virginia Sepulveda
1199 Magazine 17
THE WORK WE DO
4 4. “One of our greatest challenges is making sure all the kids have the services they need. Our motto here is ‘no kid left behind,’” says Michelle Silva (above left), who has been a clerk in Montefiore’s School Health Program for eight years. Silva is among the school health program workers who make sure kids are seen and their records are complete for the program’s medical staff. Senior Clerk Janet Hornedo
(above right) worked in Montefiore’s Urgent Care Center on the Grand Concourse before moving over to the school health program four years ago. “It was a challenge. I was used to dealing with adults and children and here I deal mainly with the students. Sometimes their parents, too. Working with them I’ve learned that sometimes kids just need a little guidance, and I try to treat them like they’re my own.”
5. Outreach Representative Angel Cruz says the School Health Program bridges gaps in young people’s medical care. “I make sure parents know we have these services and that they are completely free,” says Cruz.
“Working here is like having kids and watching them grow up.” – PCT Zouhir Maaloum
12 months earlier...
1199ers 1199ers making making an an
well, pac is not really a "what do i get?" kind of thing.
I already pay dues. WHAT WOULD I GET FOR giving to PAC?
ACCTT!! PA mP ii m
it’s an investment in quality healthcare and our communities.
6 months earlier...
...and because city clinic is so important, we need our elected officials to help keep it open!
WE NEED HEALTHCARE IN OUR COMMUNITY! KEEP CITY CLINIC OPEN!
1 month earlier...
it’s good you came when you did. he’s burning up.
NIC I L C Y
THANK YOU, DOC. I’M just happy the clinic is still here.
I’m so happy this is still in our neighborhood... *cough cough* me too, mommy.
and as your organizer, this is why i’m grateful you invested in pac!
IMPACT. INVEST IN
PAC! 1199 Magazine 19
Nursing Home Workers in Danger Caregivers demand improved staffing and safety.
her could have been prevented.” Kiner describes working conditions with inadequate staff stretched to their limits and the impossibility of keeping an eye on every patient at every moment. “You know, when I first started this work if you had somebody young on your unit it was big to-do. They have closed so many hospitals and psych units and now they’ve started putting people in our nursing homes; our locked unit is all under 50 years old,” says Kiner. “When I first started we had good people who made sure things were done right. We had staff and weren’t always working short. Sometimes patients were challenging, but you had a team and you could work together. It’s not like that now.” The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health defines workplace violence as “violent acts, including physical assault and threats of assaults, directed by a person at work or on duty.” In healthcare, workplace violence-related injuries outpace other areas of the private sector by five times. According to a 2013 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than one quarter of the deaths that occurred in a social service or healthcare setting were the result of assault. Kinei says Ruth Murray’s death is sad evidence that workers’ warnings about short staffing are not hyperbole.
Sherry McGhie, a CNA from Paterson, NJ, estimates that nursing home work is more physically dangerous than ever and cites a seismic shift in patient population driven by owners’ priorities. Nursing home managers keep filling beds but do not increase staff in line with the more challenging workload. “We have patients who have serious mental health issues on top of Alzheimer’s. And they are often as young as 55. They get into fights with our elderly patients,” she says. “You wind up having to referee and between two people with mental illness it can be impossible. We endure all kinds of verbal abuse and our lives are threatened, and the owners just think it’s okay.” The BLS report lists a host of environmental and organizational risks that increase the prevalence of workplace violence. They include: working directly with patients with a history of violence, transporting patients and clients, working alone in patients’ rooms, understaffing, high turnover and inadequate security. A 2016 report in The Sacramento Bee characterized the population change as creating a “dangerous mix” for California’s nursing home workers. The rate of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder increased by about 60 percent between 2000 and 2014, data show. Rising even more quickly is the number of patients under the age of 65.
Sherry McGhie has been a CNA in New Jersey for 28 years. She says the work is more dangerous now that ever. Cynthia Kiner, a unit clerk at Buffalo’s Emerald South NH. An elderly resident at the home was killed by another patient with dementia when she wandered into his room.
Photo: : Robert Kirkham
It’s well-known that healthcare workers face some of the highest rates of accidental injury on the job, but it’s less well-known that health and social service workers are facing significantly increasing risk of onthe-job violence. A toxic cocktail of understaffing, inadequate policy and mentally and emotionally unstable patients can have deadly results. In September 2016, Ruth Murray, an 83-year-old Alzheimer’s patient at Buffalo, New York’s Emerald South Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, wandered into the room of another patient, and a fight broke out. Murray was beaten to death by the resident, who was known to be easily agitated and aggressive. “Before that incident happened, we tried to tell them that [he] was patient who needed to be medicated and to send him out for medication and supervision,” says Cynthia Kiner, who for most of her 34 years at Emerald South worked as a CNA until recently taking a position as a unit clerk. “This was a patient who dragged two men out of their beds because he thought they were in his house. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia. He is a big strong man who used to be a roofer. I cringe when I think about what happened to Ruth.” “Ruth was just a little, thin lady. She didn’t know how to get out of that room. She needed to be directed,” Kiner continues. “What happened to
“We have drug users. We have people come to our facility directly from jail. We have a lot of younger, strong people — especially men — in our patient populations.” “We are getting a lot of psychiatric admissions,” says McGhie. “It’s not a lot of elderly people any more the way it used to be. We have drug users. We have people come to our facility directly from jail. We have a lot of younger, strong people — especially men — in our patient populations.” Jackie Jones, a housekeeper at Dry Harbor Nursing Home in Queens, NY, says workers need to keep organizing and speaking out around staffing and safety. She points to the efforts of 1199 NJ and Upstate “I helped organize my workplace. We didn’t like what was going on, so we called 1199 and brought the Union in to change things,” says Jones. “We have to keep doing the same thing now. If we don’t like something we have to work together to change it. When I started at Dry Harbor it was mostly a nursing home for elderly folks and it’s not that way now. I see how our CNAs are talked to. It’s like an alligator biting their heads off, and it’s not right.” 1199 Magazine 21
Caregivers Fight to Loosen
Community members, healthcare organizations and elected officials are struggling together in efforts to contain a national opioid epidemic that’s already claimed thousands of lives. Caring for those in the grip of addiction and helping them recover are 1199 members. While working every day to prevent the emotional and physical tolls of substance abuse, 1199 members are also spearheading public policy initiatives aimed at reducing addiction rates and the death toll from drug overdoses. David Romeo, a
Certified Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC) at St. Martin de Porres substance abuse clinic in East New York, said that the rate of overdosing has gone up exponentially since he began working in Brooklyn 14 years ago. “Opioids have always been used to subdue pain,” he says. “It is the abuse of these drugs that is the new problem we’re facing.” People who undergo surgery or suffer from chronic pain are being prescribed opiates in higher doses
t Anibal Garcia, a substance abuse counselor at Promesa in the Bronx, NY, has worked in drug treatment for 25 years.
than ever before, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Linda Dickman, an RN at Orange Regional Medical Center (ORMC) in Middletown, NY, cites overdependence for pain relief as a major factor in the opioid epidemic surge. “Pain is natural and not unexpected with surgery, but it can be managed successfully,” says Dickman. “As nurses we should be realistically discussing pain management with our patients and reinforcing alternative strategies such as relaxation, heat and cold packs. Alternatives such as meditation and Reiki therapies should be billable [to insurance companies] as alternatives to narcotics.” “We used to send people home after surgery with a month’s worth of pain medication. Now you only get 10 pills. If the pain continues, you need to get a new prescription. In the past, some people would keep taking the [opioid] pills because they believed they had to finish the prescription and became addicted without realizing,” says Jennifer Ortiz-Patton, an ORMC RN. Romeo says oxycodone is today’s gateway drug. “Back in the day, people came back from Vietnam hooked on heroin. Now they start on oxycodone. When they can’t get any more oxycodone from the doctor they switch to heroin, which is cheaper than ever,” he explains. Lawsuits brought by New York City and State are among the dozens filed by municipalities across the country against manufacturers of OxyContin, Percocet and Fentanyl, alleging the drug makers’ major role in fueling the opioid crisis. To assist in combatting the problem on the ground and addressing the grim reality of addiction, 1199’s Executive Council recently passed a pair of resolutions: one promotes the creation of safer consumption spaces, which are locations where users bring their own drugs and administer them under medical
supervision. The second resolution called for the legalization of marijuana; the reclassification and sealing of criminal records for lowlevel possession; and the reduction of sentences for those already incarcerated. Romeo presented both resolutions, explaining that safe consumption spaces provide a supportive, medically supervised environment, where overdoses are treated or prevented, and users can work to become drug-free at their own pace; the strategy has had some success in Canada and Europe. “[They] are a controversial solution, which is why we need the backing of the whole union if we are going to make it happen,” said Romeo. “But desperate times, need desperate measures. The use of needle exchanges to prevent the spread of HIV was also controversial back in the late ‘80s. It was effective, though.”
Jennifer Ortiz-Patton, an RN at Orange Regional Medical Center, has seen pain medication prescriptions curbed in an effort to stem the tide of addiction.
Anibal Garcia is a CASAC at Promesa’s Chemical Dependency Outpatient Program in the Bronx. Garcia has clocked thirty years’ experience in drug treatment and counselling. “In the past, basically 25 percent of all addicts were in California and New York. Now we see it everywhere. It’s becoming a more rural phenomenon,” he said. “Also, for economic reasons, the heroin epidemic is affecting the Caucasian population. Rather than pay $40 for a pill, they pay $10 for a bag [of “In the past, basically 25 heroin].” percent of all RN Therese Mandelbaum, a addicts were union delegate of 17 years, works in in California Same Day Surgery at OMRC. She says and New the current crisis is proliferating at York. Now we every stratum of society. see it every“I think most people in the U.S. where. It’s are dealing with the opioid crisis one becoming a way or the other,” she says. “People in this hospital have lost children. more rural My son and daughter have both lost phenomefriends.” non.” “Recently, I saw a 65-year-old – Anibal Garcia man come in with a heroin addiction. Certified Alcohol I never saw that before in my nursing and Substance career. He was prescribed OxyContin Abuse Counselor
for pain and the prescription ran out.” The resolutions passed by the Union’s Executive Council in May also sought to address the phenomenon of moving from prescription drugs to heroin. “Arguments for criminalizing marijuana in the first place were not based on research,” explains Romeo. “They were based on the idea that marijuana was a gateway drug to heroin. Nowadays, Oxy is really more of a gateway drug than marijuana. But people of color are being disproportionately arrested and convicted for marijuana offenses. It affects their whole lives. People and their families are losing their housing because of it as well as having much worse employment prospects.” Garcia say it’s crucial for healthcare workers to use their professional expertise and personal investment as community members to influence local and national public policy as well as work with their patients to treat and lower the risk of addiction. “Twenty-five years ago, we had lots of people addicted to one or two things. Now we have people addicted to drugs that didn’t even exist then,” he says. “And 1199 plays a crucial role in the fight to roll back the opioid epidemic. The union has opened the door to politicians who can really help us with our advocacy. When 1199 talks the world listens.”
1199 Magazine 23
Better For Whose NY? Thousands of NYU Langone Medical Center workers picketed hospital sites throughout NYC on Sept. 27. The megasystem is refusing to settle a fair contract and demanding special treatment after their decision last year to break with the League of Voluntary Hospitals. See pages 12-13.
1199 Magazine 24
1199 Magazine September - October 2018 Dollar For Dollar! Date For Date!