Contribute to 1199’s Disaster Relief Efforts
Labor Day Parades
Bronx Lebanon’s Community Health Workers
The purple GOTV army is on the front lines of the battle to turn the country’s political tide. Page 8
A Journal of 1199SEIU September/October 2017
16 3 Editorial Elections Matter 5 The President’s Column We are the dreamers.
6 Around the Union Massachusetts members stand up to hate; Wyckoff member push back against cuts; Solidarity with Spectrum worker & more. 8 Elections Matter 1199ers helped get out the vote on Primary Day for a host of critical races.
@1199seiu www.1199seiu.org 2
11 Hurricane Relief 1199ers displaced by Hurricane Irma still find ways to help others. Puerto Rico struggles to recover 14 The Partners Campaign The organizing express rolls through Massachusetts. 16 The Anne Shore Camp Program Our Anne Shore Camp Program has been sending eligible members’ kids on free summer camp stays since 1965.
19 Our Delegates Luis Santiago is an HIV counselor at Jamaica Hospital in Queens, NY. 20 Labor Day Parades Celebrating our working women and men. 22 Putting the ‘Community’ in Community Health Worker These Bronx Lebanon workers are a direct link to care.
1199 Magazine September/October 2017 Vol. 35, 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: Working People Standing Together Can Make Change 1199ers prove this, time and time again, at the ballot box and on the picket line.
As you read this, there is probably an 1199SEIU sister or brother some where talking to a voter. Or getting ready to talk to a voter. Or calling an elected official. Or visiting one. And if they aren’t doing those things, an 1199er may be packing supplies for victims of a natural disaster or functioning in their role as a delegate, advocating for a member. Or taking care of a patient. In short, 1199ers are always on the frontlines somewhere, doing something. This is contrary to many of the messages working people receive today: we are at the mercy of those with real money and power. 1199ers know that their actions — often in coalition with allies from other movements and sectors of labor — can make real change. 1199ers understand the power of walking a picket line, standing their ground at the bargaining table, knocking on a door, or making a phone call. In this issue, we see members from Wyckoff Hospital in Brooklyn standing up fighting off harmful layoffs at their institution. Workers spoke up on behalf of their patients and reduced the number of layoffs from 87 to 29. “If there’s less staff, it directly affects patient care because we can’t keep up,” Delegate Jasmine Casado said at an Aug. 2 informational picket at Wyckoff. Massachusetts 1199ers said “not in our city” and helped shut down a planned Aug. 19 demonstration by white supremacists in Boston. NYC 1199ers were among the thousands marching across the Brooklyn Bridge Sept. 18, supporting Charter/ Spectrum Communications workers who have been on strike since March. After Hurricanes Irma and Maria, 1199ers leapt into action with their time, money and muscle. Florida nursing home members stayed with vulnerable residents Illustration by Luba Lukova
George Gresham secretary treasurer
Maria Castaneda executive vice presidents
Jacqueline Alleyne Norma Amsterdam Yvonne Armstrong Lisa Brown Ruth Heller Maria Kercado Steve Kramer Tyrek Lee Joyce Neil Monica Russo Rona Shapiro Milly Silva Gregory Speller Veronica Turner-Biggs Laurie Vallone Estela Vazquez editor
Patricia Kenney director of photography
Jim Tynan photographer
Belinda Gallegos art direction & design Maiarelli Studio cover photograph
Jim Tynan contributors
JJ Johnson Emma MacDonald Erin Mei Amanda Torres-Price Sarah Wilson
during Irma, putting their own prop erty and families at risk in the storm’s tumult. After Hurricane Maria, members donated money and collected supplies for the devastated residents of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. In October, Secretary Treasurer Maria Castaneda traveled to Puerto Rico to deliver the donations and a message of dedication to aiding in the region’s recovery efforts. And, of course, 1199ers have been out in force during elections over the last few months. The Purple GOTV Army has been working to make sure no one forgets that elections matter. In September, members helped working family-
friendly candidates win a significant number of local races. The Army will be out in force again in November, because, as President Barack Obama once said, “elections have consequences.” Members know they can have a say in these consequences, no matter the attitude of many in D.C. or certain statehouses. “I tell people these [New York City] councilors are from where you live,” says home health aide Margarita Pillot, a political veteran who has volunteered on scores of elections. “The president runs the whole country, but these people look after schools, housing and health care for you.”
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
Letters & Social Media
RETIREE AGREES: IT’S TIME FOR MEDICARE FOR ALL hen I received my July/August issue of the 1199 Magazine, I was overjoyed to see President Gresham’s column advocating for Medicare for All and supporting Congressman John Conyers’ national single payer legislation, HR 676. Healthcare workers have a unique perspective and much to teach the nation. They know that good conditions for caregivers are crucial to patient care, for even the most excellent nurse can be overworked to the point of incompetence. Healthcare workers can teach us something else—that the economic pressures on a patient can defeat the best care plan. A caregiver once told me of a patient in the ICU who had survived her surgery, was recovering, yet was in tears. “Please just let me die,” said the patient, “or this will bankrupt my family.” Tragically, far too many patients face costs they cannot pay. That indignity will be stripped away when we pass the improved Medicare for All legislation that President Gresham advocates. The U.S. is the only wealthy nation that does not provide universal health care. Our country spends $10,000 per person per year for health care. Other industrialized countries spend an average of less than $5,000. That might be OK if our care were twice as good, but outcomes in the US are deplorable for the wealthiest country. We live 4 years less than Italians; our infant mortality rate is worse than Slovenia’s; more mothers in the U.S. die in childbirth than mothers in Turkey. We still have 30 million people without insurance coverage, and a third of those who have insurance go without care because of the cost. We can and must do better. Rep. Conyers first proposed a Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday shortly after Dr. King was assassinated. That holiday became law 15 years after a movement rose up to make it happen. It’s time now for a courageous movement to assert the will of the people and make HR 676, Expanded and Improved Medicare for All, the law of the land. I worked for 18 years building 1199 in Pennsylvania, and I’m delighted that 1199 can play a leading role in this transformation to a healthcare system that takes care of all of us. The hands that heal the patients can now lift up the nation to pass HR 676. We have the capacity and the wealth to bring the best care to all. It’s time to make it happen. Congressman Conyers first introduced HR 676 into the Congress in 2003. The 15 years is almost up.
Kay Tillow, Retiree Louisville, Kentucky 4
Join us in supporting our members and their families throughout the Caribbean, Florida and Texas. Consider donating today! 1199SEIU.org/DisasterReliefFund
VICTORY! Because we stood united, we won for our patients and our communities! http://www. politico.com/story/2017/09/26/obamacare-repeal-failure-republican-senate-243148 #GrahamCassidy
1199seiuRainout? No way! Check out these future leaders of 1199 on their way to Haledon, NJ to kick off today’s #labordayparade! #laborday #togetherwerise #fightfor15 #murphy4nj
We Won! Technical workers at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Massachusetts have voted to join 1199SEIU. Congratulations to the 100 workers, including medical lab technicians, CV techs and respiratory therapists, who we are proud to welcome to our union family!
With the 2017 - 2018 school year quickly approaching, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East held a back pack giveaway event at their Baltimore and New Carrollton headquarters for union members with school age children. Thanks to the contributions from the AIDS Health Foundation, Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, Councilman Leon Pinkett, Delegate Brooke Liermann, and Senator Joan Carter Conway, 1199SEIU was able to provide over 300 children with back packs filled with school supplies.
We Are the Dreamers 1199 will never give up fighting for a path to citizenship for our undocumented sisters and brothers. The President’s Column by George Gresham
Our union has its own “dream”... We will never give up on that. They are us. We are them. We are one.
When we look around our hospitals, nursing homes and homecare agencies, we are fully aware of the contributions our sisters and brothers who immigrated here make to the health of the American people. They are us. We are them. Last month, President Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for 800,000 immigrants who arrived here without documents as children. The Obama-era program allowed the Dreamers—as they’ve come to be known—to attend college, hold jobs, drive and legally reside in the U.S. without fear of deportation. With a stroke of a pen, Mr. Trump turned this dream into a nightmare. The president is generally acknowledged as someone without a firm grasp of policy—who doesn’t read and relies on Sean Hannity and Fox and Friends for his information— so he often doesn’t understand the consequences of his words and actions. When he eliminated DACA, the consequences weren’t long in coming. Thousands of people in dozens of cities hit the streets in spontaneous demonstrations. Nearly every major corporation from General Motors to Apple protested. A coalition of 15 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit; led by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The coalition argued that Trump’s decision to roll back DACA violates the Constitution. California, Maine, Maryland and Minnesota filed a second suit. The healthcare industry also weighed in. The American Medical Association (AMA) issued a statement urging Congress to quickly protect
Dreamers. The AMA also noted that one out of every four physicians practicing in the United States is an international medical graduate, many of them with DACA status. “We particularly are concerned that this reversal in policy could have severe consequences for many in the health-care workforce, impacting patients and our nation’s health-care system,” read the statement. In a letter to the White House, Catholic Health Association hospital CEOs wrote: “We have seen firsthand how the DACA ‘Dreamers’ have benefited our organizations at many levels of our teams. As nurses, physi cians, aides, dietary workers and facility professionals, they are part of what makes American health care great.” It is estimated that perhaps 20% of DACA beneficiaries—some 160,000 people—work in healthcare, with the majority in high-demand categories like home health aides and nurses’ aides. The government is projecting that the economy will need to add hundreds of thousands of workers in these fields over the next five to 10 years, simply to keep up with the escalating demands of a rapidly aging population. The healthcare industry’s reliance on immigrant labor makes it particularly vulnerable. In 2015, more than one-quarter of home health aides were immigrants. The proportion in California and New York is far higher, reaching nearly one-half and two-thirds, respectively. If immigrants—Dreamers and others—are deported or forced into the shadows, an acute shortage of home health workers could drive millions of older and disabled Americans into
care facilities, where costs are roughly two-to-three times the cost of home care for a full year. Though the government typically picks up that tab as well, the personal cost may be greatest: A patient’s quality of life tends to be far higher when they continue living in their own home. Trump talks about having great heart and love for the Dreamers, but we remember the pain of hearing him say things about Mexican immigrants like, “…They’re sending their killers, their rapists, their murderers, their drug lords. This is what we’re getting,” or comparing those crossing the border to vomit. We are encouraged by discussions of enacting the Dream Act, but we know well this administration’s general hostility to those not born here, with its attacks on sanctuary cities and immigrants and visitors, promises to wall off our country, including reduction of refugees from humanitarian disasters, and pardon of the convicted criminal Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona. We also reject the notion promoted by many that Dreamers are the good immigrants, as opposed to the more than 10 million other undocumented workers who harvest our food, care for our children, landscape our neighborhoods, build our homes and offices, and often do so without fair compensation, healthcare benefits, and basic human respect. Our union has its own “dream” for all—of a path to citizenship for all of our undocumented sisters and brothers. We will never give up on that dream. They are us. We are them. We are one.
1199 Magazine 5
Around the Regions First Annual 1199 Long Island Homecare Picnic Scores of 1199ers attended the Union’s First Annual Long Island Homecare Picnic in Hicksville on Sept. 16. The event was an opportunity for Long Island homecare workers to celebrate summer with friends and family as well as for unorganized workers to learn about the union. Members were encouraged to bring a non-union homecare worker with them. Representatives of 1199’s Benefit and Education Fund were on hand to answer any questions.
Wyckoff Workers Push Back Against Layoffs After decisive pushback by delegates and intraunion cooperation, the administration at Brooklyn’s Wyckoff Hospital has reduced the number of planned layoffs from 87 to 29. Scores of workers from the Bushwick institution held an informational picket Aug. 2 demanding that CEO Ramon Rodriguez stop staff reductions at the safety-net institution. Workers called the cuts unnecessary and a threat to patient care. Rodriguez announced the layoffs in July and included doctors, nurses, technologists and dietary workers. It was the second round in nearly as many months. Delegate Jasmine Casado, an Emergency Room receptionist at Wyckoff for eight years, described the impact on her work area. “Layoffs affect everyone, because short-staffing means we are going to have to work 10 times harder. If there’s less staff, it directly affects patient care because workers simply can’t keep up. Wait times in our emergency room are already way too long,” insisted Casado. Rodriguez claims Wyckoff’s financial issues are forcing his hand. Members counter that improved management is the solution. Shadise Blue, a patient access representative in the process of becoming a delegate, spoke as a Wyckoff worker and Brooklyn resident. “I live in Bed-Stuy, so I’m really 6
aware of what our patients are going through,” she said. “People are getting pushed out because of high rent, and then they have to come here and they have no insurance. They get quality care but can’t afford to follow up. We are worried about how these layoffs will affect our patients who need us.” Community members, elected officials—including State Senator Martin Malavé Dilan and Brooklyn Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna—and New York State Nurses Association-represented RNs turned out at the August action in a show of support. Workers are keeping the pressure on management. The delegate committee has insisted upon correct implementation of a sustainability plan and for future reductions to come in the form of buyouts and attrition. Members are also working with colleagues from local hospitals, including Interfaith, Kingsbrook Jewish and Brookdale to find longterm solutions to community health problems that strain the resources of healthcare facilities. Called ‘One Brooklyn’, the multi-hospital initiative was the subject of a statesponsored study that concluded with a recommendation for Wyckoff to officially join the system; the institution’s administrators have refused. Members contend Wyckoff’s participation will improve services and financial stability.
Wyckoff workers at an Aug. 2 info picket protesting layoffs at the Brooklyn hospital.
Bay State Members Stand Up To Hate
Layoffs affect everyone. Short-staffing affects patient care because workers simply can’t keep up. Wait times in our emergency room are already way too long. Delegate Jasmine Casado, Emergency Room receptionist at Wyckoff
While hundreds of 1199ers and friends gathered in Boston’s Franklin Park Aug. 19 for the Union’s Annual Health Fair, a group of Union sisters and brothers also attended the counterprotest to a white supremacist “free speech” rally in Boston. Many of our friends and allies were among the 40,000 who peacefully protested the hateful rhetoric. Members vowed to speak out against racism and violence, and continue the fight to combat injustice and inequality through our policies and initiatives.
Florida Maryland Massachusetts New Jersey New York Washington, D.C.
1199ers Stand With Spectrum Workers 1199SEIU members joined thousands of trade unionists and concerned citizens at a Sept. 18 demonstration and march over New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge in support of 1,800 striking technicians employed by Charter Communications/ Spectrum and represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3. In March of 2016, Charter purchased Time Warner Cable and another company to form the country’s second largest Internet and third-largest pay-TV provider. Though Spectrum workers have been without a contract since 2013, they’ve offered a number of cost-saving proposals to Spectrum management— including eliminating the company’s contribution to the workers’ 401k plan. Charter/Spectrum, however, remain intransigent and continue
to push for a bloodletting of workers’ benefits, including an end to pension fund payments and weekend overtime pay, elimination of the Child and Cultural Trust Fund, and a reduction of holidays from nine to seven. New York City’s Central Labor Council organized an Aug. 23 march over the George Washington Bridge to put pressure on Spectrum and call attention to the contract fight. Workers vowed to stay the course to a fair settlement. New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined numerous labor leaders and elected officials at a Cadman Plaza rally and called out Spectrum for its treatment of workers. “They made certain representations when they came into this state,” said Cuomo. “I want to know how they are going to improve customer service without the workforce to provide that service.”
1199ers were among the thousands of union members who supported striking Charter/Specturm
Communications workers at a Sept. 18 rally and march over the Brooklyn Bridge. Spectrum workers, who are
represented by IBEW Local 3, have been on strike since March.
1199ers March in NYC African American Day Parade Scores of 1199ers marched in the 48th Annual African American Day Parade, held in Harlem on Sept. 17. The African American Day Parade is held every third Sunday in September and is the country’s most-renowned celebration of African American culture. The event attracts over half a million spectators every year. This year’s parade celebrated African American health professionals. Floats and marching bands came from around the country. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife Chirlane McCray, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton were among those who walked the parade route on Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd. 1199 Magazine 7
“The city council controls schools, police, and all sorts of things in our communities.”
1199ers were out in force across New York State on Sept. 12, helping Union-backed candidates win critical local elections. “We have to get people out. Their vote counts. We need a voice,” declaimed Primary Day volunteer Lystra Thomas, a CNA from Park Ave. Extended Care, Long Beach, Long Island. “Also, it helps the union, because it shows we’re involved in what’s important to people in their community.”
NEW YORK CITY
Home Health Aides Aileen Li and Yuen Yu Lan canvassed in Brooklyn on Sept. 12. “We need to support candidates who support workers and the Chinese community, too. As activists we work very hard to get the vote out for the right candidates,” said Yuen.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, Public Advocate Letitia James and Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez victoriously cruised to their Democratic nominations. Even facing five rivals, Gonzalez got over 50% of the vote. 1199-backed candidates Carlina Rivera, Keith Powers, Francisco Moya, Alicka Amprey-Samuel and Mark Gjonaj won open New York City Council seats. 1199-supported incumbents Laurie Cumbo and Debbie Rose beat back significant challenges and Margaret Chin narrowly held her downtown Manhattan district. Nicholas Martin, an accounts receivable clerk at Northwell Health, worked hard in Queens to get out the vote for Francisco Moya. “I’ve been to Albany and DC. I think it’s important to lead by example.”
Say No To Con Con
“The city council controls schools, police, and all sorts of things in our communities,” says Martin. Though 1199ers gave their best effort, there were some disappointments: in Brooklyn’s 38th district, Felix Ortiz fell short of unseating the incumbent Carlos Menchaca for his New York City Council seat. Hettie Powell missed the mark in her bid for a the City Council seat vacated by Ruben Wills. In East Harlem, Robert Rodriguez lost in a very close race.
LONG ISLAND, THE HUDSON VALLEY, UPSTATE & MORE
It was a clean sweep for 1199-backed candidates in Nassau County, with Laura Curran winning the nomination for County Executive, Jack Schnirman for Comptroller and Dean Bennet for Clerk. Arnie Drucker also won his primary for the 16th Legislative District. In Westchester, incumbent Yonkers Councilmember Corazon Pineda won the nomination for her seat despite a challenger backed by the Democratic Party, but London Reyes failed to unseat Westchester County Legislator Virginia Perez. Albany-area results were mixed, with four of our 1199-backed candi dates for Albany City Council pulling out wins: Dorsey Applyrs, Kelly Kimborough, Richard Conti and Tom Hoey. Two of our Hudson City
council candidates. Tiffany Garinga and Michael Chameides, won their primaries. In Syracuse, our candidate for Syracuse Common Council’s 4th district, Latoya Allen, won, as did Bill Phillips in the Utica Common Council’s 5th Ward. Results were split in the Oneida County Legislature, with a win for Rose Ann Convertino but a loss for Barbara Calandra. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown beat back a challenge and Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, strongly backed by 1199, had a big win against two significant challengers. Four of our candidates for Rochester City Council won: Loretta Scott, Malik Evans, Mitch Gruber and Willie Lightfoot. We had one loss, with Dana Miller losing her race for Rochester City Council VP. Margarita Pillot, an 1199 Home Health Aide who works for the Cooperative Healthcare Association in the Bronx, canvassed in Manhattan’s East Harlem. A veteran political volunteer, Pillot emphasized the need to get out the vote on primary days and in smaller, local races. “I tell people these city councillors are from your community where you live. The President runs the whole nation, but these people look after schools, housing and health care for you. If you have a problem, you can go to them.”
Public employee pensions, public education, collective bargaining and many social welfare programs would be fair game during a convention.
1199ers are speaking out against Proposal 1, a November ballot measure that could allow a complete re-draft of the New York State Constitution. Every two decades, New York residents vote on whether they want to submit the state’s foundational document to an overhaul, otherwise known as the Constitutional Convention (Con Con). The Empire State’s constitution can be amended in two ways: with the passage of individual bills and amendments in the legislature, which then appear on the following year’s ballot, or a constitutional convention, which allows elected delegates to make constitutional changes which are then presented to voters as ballot questions. The last constitutional convention called by the state was in 1967; none of the subsequent recommendations were approved by voters. The last one actually called by voters was in 1938. Though some see this as an opportunity to further ethics reform, others, like Carlita Adamy, a driver at PACE/Loretto in Syracuse, say the convention puts too much at risk. Public employee pensions, public education, collective bargaining and many social welfare programs would be fair game during a convention. “It’s a little disheartening to think about what could happen with the administration we have in office in Washington, D.C.,” says Adamy. “The things that are important, like health care, job protection and education, could all be voted on by people who don’t even know who we are and don’t have our interests in mind.”
1199 Magazine 9
Randy Abreu Home Health Aide’s Son Aims for Progressive Change in NYC The Bronx native says politics taught him that not having a seat at the table means you’re likely on the menu.
“We have a very low voter turnout. The main challenge is to get people out to vote. People in the Bronx have been let down by politicians too many times. Democrats included.”
Randy Abreu with his mother Yvelisse, a former 1199 home health aide. Randy Abreu’s unsuccessful bid for the New York City Council seat representing his Bronx district signaled a new voice for changes.
Born and raised in the University Heights area of the Bronx, to parents who emigrated from the Dominican Republic, Randy Abreu was on the fast track to a successful career in law and government. Before the age of 30, he landed a job in the Obama administration’s Energy Department. It wasn’t long into his Washington, D.C. stint when he realized not having a seat at the table means you’re liable to be on the menu. When President Trump turned the nation’s political tide sharply against any progressive agenda, Abreu decided he could achieve a lot more at home. “I couldn’t live with myself if I was pulling down a [high] salary in D.C. and looking back at my community in the Bronx,” says Abreu. So in September’s elections for New York City Council, he took on the sitting New York City councilmember in his Bronx district. Though he didn’t win the contest, he laid the groundwork for more progressive local leadership in the city. “We have a very low voter turnout. The main challenge is to get people out to vote. People in the Bronx have been let down by politicians too many times. Democrats included,” adds Abreu. Abreu’s mother, Yvelisse, raised him and his brothers on her own. For 20 years she worked as an 1199-represented home health aide with the Patient Care and Premier agencies. “The union helped to stabilize the family with steady income and benefits,” says Abreu, “Mom came here in the early ‘80s, pregnant with my oldest brother and with a dream of a better life. 1199 helped her to develop a skill and climb the ladder to stability.” After winning a full scholarship to Skidmore College in upstate New York he went on to law school in San Diego. But while Abreu was moving forward, he saw his community was moving backwards economically. “Many parts of the country have been recovering since 2008. The poverty level in the Bronx
has increased from 35% to 37%, and that’s compared with 20% in the rest of New York State,” says Abreu, adding: “Our schools are some of the most segregated in the city.” Recognizing the importance of New York City Council members to local communities, Abreu saw a chance to make a difference. “In one of the wealthiest cities in the world, sometimes it feels like everyone else gets to eat while we are fighting for scraps,” he says. While in D.C., Abreu saw the potential for huge investment in clean energy and technical jobs over the next decade—despite Trump administration positions. “It is a trillion-dollar job market, but in 2020 the people who are first in line for those jobs are not our kids. The internet is a great equalizer and I want to make sure Bronx families can take advantage of all it has to offer,” pledges Abreu, while acknowledging that only 40% of Bronx residents know how to use the internet. “The other 60 per cent are on the wrong side of the digital divide,” he observed. Abreu is also tackling the issue of dirty fuel. Hospitalization rates for asthma in the Bronx are about five times higher than the national average. Changing school bus engines from diesel to fuel cell batteries would be a major step in alleviating the problem, he says. “Kids stand next to the buses and inhale the toxic fumes. Carbon monoxide is invisible, but if parents could see what was surrounding their children, they would be really upset,” he believes. Today, Abreu is working for a healthy, economically sound Bronx. “Right now we have a situation where a poor mother in the Bronx has to decide whether to buy food or pay her [electric] bill. We need to work for more energy efficiency, so she doesn’t have to make that choice,” he asserts. “There is a lot of money in this city. There is no reason why we can’t all thrive.” Note: A longer version of this interview is available at www.1199SEIU.org.
Membersâ€™ courage and commitment kept patients safe.
1199 HEROES OF THE HURRICANE
ď ° As Hurricane Irma tore across Florida, dedicated nursing home workers put aside their own needs to ensure the care and comfort of their vulnerable residents.
Hurricane Irma rampaged through the Caribbean and the Southeastern U.S. in August, leaving death and wholesale destruction in its wake. But amidst the horror and devastation, 1199ers were among the selfless and courageous who cared for those in need even while the members themselves were imperiled. Gail Bruno, a CNA at Consulate NH in North Fort Myers on the West Coast of Florida, reported to work at 3 p.m. on Saturday before Irma struck the city. 1199 Magazine 11
She did not leave the facility for the next 48 hours. “We all worked 16-hour shifts and got some rest in between,” Bruno says, referring to her eight or nine co-workers. “We all have been here for at least 15 years or so. We are all close like family, and we help each other.” Bruno, a delegate with 19 years at the institution, is quick to deflect praise. “Some of the others suffered more damage than I did and they also have more to overcome than I do, she says. “ Gertrude Lapomarade, one of our CNAs, is a single mom who lives with her mom and two small children. She had to leave by 7 p.m. the evenings after Irma hit because after dark it was too
dangerous for her to make her way through the high water in the flooded streets of her neighborhood.” Bruno also credits the Union leadership and members, noting that after Irma struck, management did not offer workers even a bottle of water. When she spoke to 1199 Magazine, she and Union staff had just completed distributing food and water to members. The selflessness and dedication of Consulate members were repeated throughout the state. About 28 miles north of Fort Myers, members at Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte also remained at their residents’ sides during and after the hurricane. Eva Nolasco is a CNA and tech,
a delegate, and a member political organizer, Purple Gold member and mother of four. Ordered to evacuate, Nolasco had her mother take the two younger children, Evert and Abigail, to stay with a relative. Nolasco brought her teenage children, Ashley and Albert, to the hospital where they worked as volunteers, caring for children and animals that were sheltered in the facility. “We all had to work extra shifts because some staff couldn’t make it in,” Nolasco says. “I’ve never experienced anything like the storm or the crowded situation in the hospital. We made it through because we all helped each other. In the Union we are a team.” Nolasco took inventory of all the members to determine their needs.
“We all worked 16-hour shifts and got some rest in between. We all have been here for at least 15 years or so,” she says. “We are all close like family, and we help each other.” Gail Bruno CNA and 1199SEIU delegate at Consulate NH in North Fort Myers
1199ers Gertrude Joseph, Mark Criswell and Carline Gele delivered care packages to Florida residents affected by Hurricane Irma.
She also took it upon herself to check on neighbors, noting that she is both a Union and community activist. “I made sure to let everyone know that we are there for them,” she stresses. As much havoc as Irma wreaked in Florida, it caused even greater devastation in the Caribbean, the birthplace of thousands of 1199ers. Much of the British islands of Barbuda and Tortola were reduced to rubble. The same was true of the half Dutch and half French island St. Maarten. The rampaging winds and rain also leveled large sections of St. John and St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. After Irma flattened most of St. Thomas and St. John, social media blew up with complaints of the mainstream media ignoring Virgin Island residents, who are U.S. citizens. Genevieve Smith, a lab technologist at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, and Alex Sarrington, a Presbyterian laboratory attendant there, waited anxiously for word about relatives in U.S.V.I. They later learned that their loved ones were safe. “My cousin was rescued from the second floor of her home in St. Thomas,” says Sarrington, adding that other family members suffered more serious damage to their homes and property. “A friend of another cousin lost his life [in the storm].” Even in her anxiety, Presby’s Genevieve Smith was sanguine about Irma’s effect on her home island’s beauty, with its pristine beauty, picturesque beaches and abundant sun. “This is the price you pay to live in paradise,” she says. 1199SEIU is collecting funds to aide victims of Irma, Harvey, Maria and other climate disasters, but it also is working to insure that elected officials on every level take steps to address the effects of climate change and move quickly towards a clean energy and sustainable future. Members can make donations to the Union’s disaster relief fund by going to www.1199SEIU.org.
Puerto Rico Struggles to Recover. When Hurricane Irma hit the U.S. island of Puerto Rico, it took the lives of three people and left 70 percent of the residents without power. Just days later, Hurricane Maria flattened the island, drenching it with record rainfall, knocking out all of its power and much of its water supply, destroying its agriculture and littering its roads with uprooted trees and downed power lines. The hurricane’s devastation came as Puerto Rico struggles under the weight of an economic crisis worsened by the island’s decaying infrastructure. By the last week in September, Maria had caused scores of deaths throughout the Caribbean, including at least 31 in Puerto Rico. The storm set off a humanitarian crisis, leaving thousands of 1199ers
of Puerto Rican descent from Florida to Massachusetts anxiously trying to contact loved ones and send desperately needed supplies, such as food and health and hygiene products. “I spoke to my mother, who lives in Aguadilla, just hours before the hurricane hit, but I hadn’t heard for four days” said Gladys Bruno, an 1199 contract administrator and former patient associate at Brooklyn’s Lutheran Hospital in late September. “I had sisters, cousins, nieces and in-laws that I’m worried sick about,” Bruno says. Bruno finally reached them and learned they had survived. Her story is not uncommon; according to news reports, some residents were driving as much as two hours to locations that have cell signals, so that
they could call loved ones on the mainland. The disruption and pain are expected to continue well into the future. Calling Maria the “worst disaster in the island’s history,” Gov. Ricardo Rosello predicted Puerto Rico might be without power for months. In late September, residents near the Guajataca River on the northwest part of the island were told to evacuate because of an imminent break in the dam that holds back the river. “I’m worried about the aftermath,” Bruno says. “We Puerto Ricans are a resilient people and have survived many crises, but we also need assistance. The administration and anyone who is able, including 1199ers, need to do whatever they can to help the island recover and rebuild.”
1199 Magazine 13
Landmark Organizing Gains at Partners HealthCare
Wins reflect 1199 Massachusettsâ€™ political and social clout.
Top: Workers at Partners’ Faulkner Hospital in Boston, MA after winning 1199 representation in a March vote. Workers at Partners’ Cooley Dickinson Hospital voted yes in August for 1199 representation, so they would have a unified voice on the job.
In August, about 100 technical workers at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, MA, voted to join 1199SEIU; the vote was the latest in a string of 1199SEIU victories at facilities of Partners Health Care, the state’s largest healthcare system. The win was also an important milestone on an organizing journey that began in January, when 1199SEIU Massachusetts formed a strategic alliance with Partners to allow free and fair union representation elections at the system’s facilities. The agreement was important to community and safety-net hospitals and patients—the creation of a state commission to study and correct variations in Boston hospitals’ reimbursement rates. The alliance reflects the increasing clout of 1199SEIU Massachusetts in the political and social life of the Bay State: Massachusetts 1199ers are found on the frontlines of struggles as varied as immigrant rights, climate justice, civil rights and campaigns for economic justice. Union members are key leaders in the Fight for $15 and other political and economic battles central to the state’s union movement. The ranks of member leaders have increased with an innovative delegates’ leadership training program. And the Union’s absolute commitment to social, economic and racial justice has resonated with workers. “I talked to co-workers about the importance of a unified voice that we would have with 1199,” says Lynn Conant, a Cooley Dickinson surgical technologist and a leader of the Union organizing campaign. Conant, like
many of her co-workers, was deeply concerned about unequal treatment that sowed division, rather than the fostering of unity in the workplace. “Some of the treatment was insulting,” she says. Less than a month before the Cooley Dickinson technical workers’ victory, some 300 service workers at the institution voted to join 1199. Members cited fair wages, dignity and a voice in the workplace as reasons for their vote. “I voted yes to join 1199SEIU to have a more fair playing field for employees, to be treated with respect and fairness and to have support when we need it,” says Deanna Williams, a Cooley Dickinson administrative assistant. That sentiment is echoed by some of the 500 service workers at Partner’s Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital who voted overwhelmingly to join 1199 in March. The new members include administrative, food service and housekeeping staff, as well as medical interpreters. Faulkner workers recently elected a diverse and active group of members to serve on the bargaining committee and are currently negotiating their first contract. “Management often made us feel that we were just tools,” says Faulkner unit coordinator and PCA Stacie Welch. “We weren’t given the respect and dignity that made us feel we were part of the healthcare team.” Victoire Solomon, a Faulkner secretary, voted 1199 for equal rights and a greater voice in the workplace. “With the Union, we’ll also be
“We wanted a voice, and now we have it.” able to have our responsibilities more clearly defined and be compensated based on the work we perform,” notes Solomon, the single mother of a sixyear-old daughter. For Carl Stewart, a substance abuse counselor and 20-year veteran of Faulkner, the organizing campaign could not have come too soon. “I went to a meeting 10 years ago about organizing Faulkner,” he says, adding that to his disappointment, the drive never materialized. “I had been a shop steward and executive committee member at a previous job, so I know the importance of having a union and being able to bargain,” he says. Stewart emphasizes the importance of having the union establish standards and a wage and benefits floor. “If you have a good situation, it’s important to first hold the line and then build from there on what you have,” he says. Cooley Dickinson’s Conant says she is looking forward to contract negotiations, buoyed by The Union’s growing strength. “We aren’t many at our hospital, but we’re strong,” she says. “During the talks, we won’t ask for the moon, but we’ll shoot for the stars.”
1199 Magazine 15
Happy Campers The Anne Shore Sleep Away Camp Program makes Union kids’ summertime fun time.
1199’s Anne Shore Camp Program serves close to 800 kids every summer.
Marcus Brown’s parents Veronica and Tyrone are both members of 1199. His mother Veronica is an RN at Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern and his father Tyrone is a nursing assistant at Field HomeHoly Comforter in Yorktown Heights. A week into camp Marcus was so homesick he considered leaving. Camp staff convinced Marcus to stay and after the meeting, his bunk mates greeted him with tears of happiness and hugs.
ince its inception in 1965, The Anne Shore Camp program has been sending eligible 1199ers’ children who are between the ages of nine and fifteen on free, two-to-four week stays at summer camps throughout the East Coast. The program is open to eligible members covered under the National Benefit Fund and the Greater New York Child Care Fund. The Anne Shore Program is administered by the 1199SEIU Child Care Corporation and serves nearly 800 kids annually. An array of camps emphasizes science, fine arts, adventure, and athletics—as well as traditional summer camp. There are also programs for teenaged, disabled or special needs campers. This summer, 1199 Magazine visited Camp Louemma, which is located on 152 acres adjacent to the Appalachian Trail in Sussex, NJ. Louemma, which has been in operation for 70 years, is a first-year sleepaway camp provider for Anne Shore and this summer, served about 800 kids over the course of two sessions. The 1199SEIU Child Care Corporation offers extensive resources for parents to learn about summer camp, including an annual Camp Fair and an “Ask A Mom” link where parents can email questions to fellow parents and Child Care Corp. staff. For more information, email AnneShoreCampProgram@1199funds.org or call 212-564-2220 ext. 3460.
Maximillian Minnot, 14, is the daughter of Brookdale Hospital RN Maxine Mighty Minnot. Maxie (as she is called) was
initially nervous about her stay at camp says her mother. “It was her first experience at sleepaway camp,” says Maxine. The
anxiety was shortlived, says mom: “On the first day she was crying because she was scared, then she was crying when
I picked her up because she was going to miss her friends.”
1199 Magazine 17
An array of camps emphasizes mathematics, science, fine arts and athletics—as well as traditional summer camp. There are also programs for teenaged, disabled or special-needs campers, and those who return home on the weekend.
Kids at Camp Louemma have a traditional summer camp experience, with a range of activities available, from sports to arts and crafts. Camryn Wilson (center) attended Louemma with her younger sister Hillary King. Their mom, Quiana Wilson, is a CNA at Bel Aire Care Center in Bellmore NY.
O U R D E L E G AT E S
Our Delegates: Luis Santiago, HIV/AIDS counsellor at Jamaica Hospital in New York City “People have fought hard to make 1199 what it is. I want to get as many people involved as I can.” Luis Santiago walked into a strike on the day he started as an HIV/AIDS counsellor at Jamaica Hospital in New York City. Service workers walked off the job over threatened cuts to wages and benefit. That was almost 20 years ago. “Management wanted my team, who were not unionized, to go work in the hospital laundry. I knew those laundry jobs were union positions and I didn’t want to cross the line. So I led the team right through the hospital and out the other side. We went and got a bite to eat,” he recalls. After that show of solidarity, Santiago worked to unionize his own team. Management asserted that a grant-funded team could not join 1199, but Santiago was pretty sure that wasn’t true and sought an 1199 organizer to find out. Santiago’s efforts changed his supervisor’s attitude toward him, he says. “I knew I couldn’t get caught up in how she was viewing me. I had to move forward and do what was right for me and my family,” he recalls. Santiago was paying $200 a month for health insurance for himself, his wife and his son—not including deductibles. “I didn’t have any job security either,” he adds. After almost 12 years of persistent, low-key organizing, Santiago’s team won a 2008 vote for 1199 representation. Two years later, he became a delegate. “People say I should have been a politician. I’m always looking to help. That is why I became a counsellor. It is
really important to me to educate my brothers and sisters and inform them of their rights,” he says with a smile. “It feels great when I find something in the contract that the supervisors and administrators didn’t know. To a certain extent delegates are like lawyers,” he affirms. Santiago also wants to make sure community residents’ concerns are heard and tries to educate members about the importance of getting involved in politics “A lot of only people think of the union in terms of benefits,” says Santiago, pointing out the difficulty of winning good contracts if healthcare funding is cut. Santiago’s son, Luis, Jr. is studying to be an anesthesiologist. “I try to set an example for him,” says Santiago, going on to tell the story of resolving a black mold infestation in Luis, Jr.’s Brooklyn middle school. Santiago got the NYC Department of Education to tackle the problem quickly by involving local politicians and the media. In the recent New York City Council primary races, Santiago spent a month canvassing in Queens for Francisco Moya. At press time, Luis was headed to a Washington, D.C. Lobby Day to meet with elected officials about maintaining Medicaid funding and other programs our healthcare system depends on. “I try to be a voice for my community,” he says. “Minorities don’t come out and vote enough. People don’t always realize that
HIV/AIDS counsellor Luis Santiago at Sept. 27 Lobby Day in Washington, D.C.
“Minorities don’t come out and vote enough. People don’t always realize the impact that voting has on their own community.”
impact that voting has on their own community. When people don’t want to vote, I tell them frankly: ‘Don’t complain when you don’t get what you’re looking for in terms of housing, education, jobs and medical cover for senior citizens.’” Last year, Santiago took several turns as a Weekend Warrior, campaigning in Pennsylvania for Hillary Clinton. He recalls the election results with wistful determination. “I think a lot of us were disappointed, especially when we put in all the hours of hard work. But we need to continue the fight despite who is in office,” affirms Santiago, who clearly has no intention of giving up the fight for working people. “I joined the union for the simple reason that we need people to speak up for our rights under the contract,” he says. “People have fought hard to make 1199 what it is. I want to get as many people involved as I can.”
1199 Magazine 19
1199ers celebrate Labor Day
LABOR SHOWS OUT! 1199ers in New York City, New Jersey and Upstate New York gathered in September for Labor Day celebrations marking America’s labor history and calling attention to the struggles of working women and men. In New Jersey, 1199SEIU was among the scores of union contingents that marched from Haledon’s American Labor Museum to the Paterson Museum, another site that enshrines the nation’s rich labor history. In Rochester, 1199ers were joined by the city’s mayor, Lovely Warren, a longtime Union ally and stalwart labor supporter. In Buffalo, workers were out in force, calling for $15 an hour and a union; and in NYC the yearly procession up Fifth Avenue drew throngs of proud workers and onlookers. 20
FROM TOP LEFT CLOCKWISE Debra Chapman, a recreation assistant at Windsor Garden in East Orange, NJ marching in the Sept. 3 Labor Day Parade. “I’m here to speak up for $15 an hour. I’m here to support anything that’s good for our Union — better insurance, better salaries and better working conditions. And seeing so many other unions here speaking up too is a real blessing. It’s a beautiful day and I’m just glad that everyone came out to celebrate Labor Day.” 1199ers with the Union’s endorsed candidate for NJ governor, Phil Murphy. Waving to crowds on Fifth Ave in NYC. Vote “No” on the NYC Constitutional Convention was a prominent message in this year’s Labor Day celebrations. The Nov. ballot proposal puts at risk seminal protections for NY workers.
In New York City, 1199ers marched in the Central Labor Councilorganized parade under the banner of “Justice For All!”
1199 Magazine 21
“COMMUNITY” IN COMMUNITY HEALTH Community health worker apprenticeship program strengthens link between healthcare workers and the patients they serve.
In the American labor lexicon, apprentices are generally more associated with hammer and nails than blood sugar checks. But in 2016, the 1199SEIU Training and Employment Funds (TEF) sought to change that model and launched a groundbreaking Registered Apprenticeship Program. Fifteen hospital workers were trained to become Bronx-based community health workers (CHWs). CHWs connect the local community with medical and social services. In their roles as frontline caregivers, CHWs work takes many forms: they communicate with doctors, help make patients’ home environments healthier and safer, create community education campaigns and assist with activities of daily living. As the country’s healthcare system evolves, CHWs are expanding their scope of work and their ranks are growing; their number nearly doubled between 2013 and 2016. Concurrently, apprenticeships across the vocational spectrum are expanding, which provide faster routes to professionalization and help close classroom/worksite knowledge gaps. The TEF pilot apprenticeship program is a collaborative effort of the Union, Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, The City of New
York, Small Business Services through the New York Alliance for Careers in Healthcare (NYACH), and LaGuardia Community College, CUNY. The classroom portion of the program is conducted during paid release time and the apprentices’ own time. Students are required to attend classes, work with a peermentor and complete 1,000 hours of on-the-job training. The diverse inaugural student body represented numerous classifications, ethnicities, genders and ages. Workers trained for specialization in four areas and several sub-specialties, including HIV/AIDS Education and Diabetes Care. (The program is now on its second cohort of participants, who are on track to graduate in a few months.) CHW Christina Boynes began in 2014 as a dietary worker at Bronx Lebanon. She’s now a CHW specializing in family medicine, overseeing a caseload of 58 patients. Boynes’ clients have a wide range of health issues and acuity levels. Her work encompasses wellness, youth outreach and health maintenance. She works on an initiative to decrease Bronx residents’ exposure to HIV/ AIDS and Hepatitis. Boynes says she was attracted to the apprenticeship program because of its confluence with her professional and educational aspirations.
communication with doctors and com passionate when we speak to patients.” Certified Patient Navigator Danny Dei mentored Roberto Claudio through his CHW. Claudio and Dei agree that the totality of CHW’s responsibility can feel overwhelming at times, but ultimately the work and service to the people of the Bronx is a source of pride. Claudio specializes in Diabetes and Asthma education. “We take a holistic approach to dealing with patients. We talk to doctors about community engagement, and because of our work we get to breathe healthier air,” he says, recognizing the Bronx’s stubborn
“I was already planning to go back to school for social work, so when I heard about the program I knew it was a perfect fit for me. It would help me get my feet wet and get a feeling for social work. It was also an opportunity to network with others who are already in the profession,” she says. Jacelyne Bonilla, a Bronx Lebanon Community Education Assistant, was Boynes’ peer-mentor. The pair was a good fit: both are detail oriented and doggedly determined community advocates. Peer mentors are central to the apprenticeship experience. Much of the training is overseen by the mentors, whose work with students
ranges from sounding board to patient care problem solver. ` “It’s a wonderful thing to share knowledge with someone,” says Bonilla, acknowledging the twofold benefits of the mentor-mentee connection. “I’m not bothered when people ask questions. This is the learning experience.” “When you have that relationship, you want to help people do things for themselves. And you also want to show them how, so it’s a balancing act you have to learn,” she says. “It’s also a reminder for me about how we speak to doctors and our patients. That we are efficient with our time in
asthma problem. Hospitalization rates for the disease are five times higher than the national average. At the CHW’s May 31 graduation ceremony union officers, hospital administrators and co-workers were on hand to celebrate the group’s achievement. Graduate Daryl Turmon glowed with pride as he shared the day with one of his biggest fans—his daughter Mariah, 7—and discussed what the future holds for him and his coworkers. “This is paving the way for more healthcare workers to engage more deeply with the Bronx community,” he said.
Hospital Community Health Worker Christina Boynes (in pink) with her mentor Jacelyne Bonilla. Bonilla is a Community Education Assistant at the institution
grads at May 31 commencement ceremony for Bronx Lebanon’s Community Health Worker Registered Apprenticeship Program.
“We take a holistic approach to dealing with patients. We talk to doctors about community engagement, and because of our work we get to breathe healthier air.” Roberto Claudio
1199 Magazine 23
#CARENOTCHAOS 1199ers took The Hill on Sept. 27. They visited lawmakers in Washington, D.C. and urged them to vote against cuts to child health insurance programs, federal funding for hospitals and nursing homes and Medicaid. #savemedicaid See story on page 8.
1199 Magazine 24