A JOURNAL OF 1199SEIU Summer 2009
We tackle today’s crisis
TO SAFEGUARD OUR FUTURE
Shanazi Jackson, 9, is the granddaughter of Sonia Marshall, a patient care associate at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, Mass. The recession has been hard on her family. “But we can’t give up for our children. We have to be strong for them,” says Marshall. See pg. 7.
Contents 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 11 12 13 14 15
MEETING THE ECONOMIC CRISIS 1199ers act individually and collectively. PRESIDENT’S COLUMN We saved our benefits for our future. UNITY WINS CONTRACT VICTORY Members vote on new pact. CREDIT UNION EXPANDS TO MEET NEEDS An important member of the Union family. MEMBERS FIND WAYS TO STRETCH A DOLLAR “We can’t give up now.” THE WORK WE DO Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital Medical Center: pulling together in tough times.
JOB SECURITY NET CATCHES MEMBERS Laid-off members get assistance. INTERGENERATIONAL DISCUSSION Crises also provide opportunities.
HEALTH CARE IS MAJOR COMPONENT OF CRISIS Legislation will help all. MAINTAINING A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE These times require care of mind and body.
PERSONAL FINANCES QUIZ Test your knowledge. AROUND OUR UNION Massachusetts hospital workers join 1199SEIU family.
Our Life And Times, Summer 2009, Vol. 27, No. 3 Published by 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East 310 West 43rd St. New York, NY 10036 Telephone (212) 582-1890 www.1199seiu.org PRES I DE NT :
S EC RETARY TREASURE R :
Maria Castaneda EXEC UTIVE VIC E PRES I DE NTS :
Norma Amsterdam Yvonne Armstrong Angela Doyle Mike Fadel Aida Garcia George Kennedy Steve Kramer Patrick Lindsay Joyce Neil John Reid Bruce Richard Mike Rifkin Neva Shillingford Milly Silva Estela Vazquez E DITOR :
J.J. Johnson STAFF WRITE R :
Patricia Kenney PHOTOG RAPH E R :
Jim Tynan PHOTOG RAPHY ASS ISTANT :
Belinda Gallegos & Maiarelli Studio COVE R PHOTO : Jim Tynan ART DI RECTION
DES IG N :
Our Life And Times is published 6 times a year by 1199SEIU, 310 West 43rd St., New York, NY 10036. Subscriptions $15 per year. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY and additional mailing offices. ISSN 1090-3089. USPS 000-392. Postmaster: Send address changes to Our Life And Times, 310 West 43rd St., New York, NY 10036.
Summer 2009 • Our Life And Times
On Frontlines of the Economic Crisis 1199ers respond collectively and individually.
The July 2007 issue of Our Life And Times,”Money Games,” advised members about how to avoid common financial pitfalls and how to make better decisions about their money. The 1199SEIU Federal Credit Union still distributes copies of that issue to its members. This issue of OLAT picks up where the former left off. The former issue explored the then-emerging mortgage crisis. Little did we know then that the crisis would help set fire to the U.S. and world economies. The issuing of exploitative sub-prime mortgages and later packaging them as securities have driven our economy into a deep ditch from which it will take some time to emerge. All have been affected, but none more than workers and the poor. But as this issue of OLAT documents, the members and leaders of 1199SEIU are finding ways to meet the challenge. That challenge is especially great for members in the 1199SEIU National Benefit and Pension Funds. These members have just modified and extended their collective bargaining agreements in order to save their exceptional health care, pension and job security benefits. Some 150,000 members are affected by the agreements. (See page 5.) As usual, 1199ers have also ventured into the political and legislative arenas to help undo the damage wrought by years of policies that removed restrictions on the corporate heads responsible for plundering the economy while they pocketed the profits. Many 1199ers who spent much of 2008 working to defeat Republican politicians and policies have fanned across the country to help win passage of national legislation that would speed our nation’s turnaround. Most are working for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would loosen the pro-boss regulations on union organizing, and national health insurance, which would provide coverage for all and slow the runaway costs of health care. Everet Mills has taken a leave from her position as a CNA at Cliffside NH in Flushing, N.Y., to work throughout Colorado. Retiree Luc Remy, who mobilized fellow members for some 34 years at Dewitt NH in Manhattan, is doing so now in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “This is my way of raising my voice about the need for health care for all and why we need the right to unionize to change our country,” Remy says. Members also recognize that in addition to working collectively, they must also take action in their personal lives to help them survive the economic depression. Members found in the pages of this issue are doing so in countless ways, such as changing their eating habits, discovering the importance of exercise, returning to school, training for new positions, calling on the 1199SEIU National Credit Union for personal loans and the Union’s Home Mortgage Department for assistance in purchasing homes. Women members, still at the bottom of the economic ladder, have borne the greatest brunt during the crisis. But they are not without hope. In fact, members like Lisette Crime, 24, a medical assistant in Lynn Community Health’s Pediatric Clinic in Lynn, Mass., and mother of three-year-old son, Ganife, describe how in this period of crisis they are managing to move forward.
Summer 2009 • Our Life And Times
1199ers on the front lines: More than 900 health care Massachusetts 1199ers attended Advocacy Day at the State House in Boston on April 15 in an effort to protect jobs and quality care.
The issuing of exploitative subprime mortgages and later packaging them as securities has driven our economy into a deep ditch from which it will take some time to emerge.
THE PRESIDENT’S COLUMN George Gresham
Members Stood Firm And Together Won Our League Contract Our unity is the cornerstone of our success. As most every 1199SEIU sister and brother knows by now, we recently concluded bargaining on a new contract that will eventually cover some 145,000 hospital and nursing home workers in New York City, Long Island and New York’s northern suburbs. What many folks don’t know, however, is how we achieved the settlement. It all goes to the meaning of what our Union is, and to the strength and determination of our members. These were negotiations we had hoped to avoid. Our contract with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes was in force until 2011. But with the global financial collapse, our Pension Fund – like virtually every other institution and individual in the country – lost some 30 percent of its assets. Under the Bush-era “Pension Protection Act” – like most Bush-sponsored legislation, the name of the act was the opposite of its purpose – we were forced to replenish the Fund or be subject to a government-imposed default plan that would have shattered our members’ pensions. So we re-opened the contract. This couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Over 100,000 American workers are losing their jobs each week. Millions – including many members of other unions – have lost or are losing their healthcare coverage, their pensions, even their homes. Yet here we were telling management that our defined pension benefits and our healthcare benefits at their present levels were nonnegotiable items. And, because we were working under a contract that didn’t expire for two mores years, our members were without their ultimate weapon – the ability to withhold their labor. Still, in the end, we were able to achieve all of our members’ primary goals. Our pensions are intact. Our present level of healthcare benefits is secure. Our job security guarantees are still in force. Plus, we saved our Training Fund, Child Care Fund, and our other smaller funds, our hours, vacation, holidays and sick time and all of the other gains we’ve made in 50 years as a healthcare union. Of course, there was shared pain. We knew that going into the negotiations. We got more modest wage increases than in past negotiations. But this is at a time when other workers are being asked to take reductions in pay to keep their jobs. How were we able to achieve this? The same way 1199ers have been doing it for five decades: We were informed and knowledgeable about our situation; we kept our eyes on the prize; we organized ourselves for a fight; and we mobilized our members in our institutions to make sure management understood that we were serious about saving our benefits for our future and we weren’t backing down from that. This contract was won, in the first place, not at the bargaining table but in the shops. Management understands our strength and unity – and our importance to the industry. Nobody gave us anything. We – our members – demanded and won a fair, just contract. And while we in downstate New York were consumed with winning a settlement, our members in Massachusetts were organizing hundreds of new members in hospitals in Boston and Lynn; our homecare members in Washington, D.C. were carrying their fight for a new contract into the neighborhoods of the agency owners; and our members in New Jersey were rallying in Trenton to save nursing home funding for their patients. So it went – and so it goes – throughout our Union. It is what makes 1199SEIU special. Our Union is not a group of officers, or a headquarters building. It is sisters and brothers united and moving together to achieve what they deserve. Later this year, we will be celebrating our 50th Anniversary as a healthcare Union. This summer’s achievements do justice to the great traditions we’ve inherited from the generations that came before us.
Letters MEDICARE FOR ALL ecently a special Delegate Assembly was called to discuss the future of the Pension and Benefit Plans. Funding the skyrocketing cost of health insurance proves to be the greatest stumbling block in negotiations. Nationally, private health insurance takes $400 billion a year in profits and administrative costs. Winning a National Single Payer Health Care Program could eliminate this huge expense and help us at the bargaining table. HR 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, was re-introduced this year by Rep. John Conyers. It is endorsed by hundreds of state and local labor unions and central labor councils. Like Medicare, it establishes the federal government as the single payer of everyone’s medical bill. Private health insurance takes one third of our money for paperwork and profits. Single payer provides coverage for everyone with no copays or deductibles and no denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions. If you move or lose your job, you still keep your health care coverage. SB 703, The American Health Security Act, was recently introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Under this plan, patients could see providers of their choice under a federally funded plan administered by the states. It would also provide resources to train primary-care physicians, and fund community health centers. Pres. Obama’s plan would mandate all citizens to purchase health insurance—hopefully at a discounted rate. If you lose your job you’d still be mandated to pay into a fund. This plan leaves the insurance companies in control. It will not help us at the bargaining table. And it does not provide enough coverage. In Massachusetts, where a similar plan is already in effect, several labor leaders have urged Obama to reject a plan which is based on public tax subsidies and individual mandates. The 1199 Executive Council has endorsed the Conyers Bill. But our Union and SEIU International are backing the Obama Plan since they feel it has the best chance for passage. We urge members to contact their Congress members to vote for the bill that will bring the most benefits to working people and save our benefit and pension plans.
ANNETTE DUNCAN, MONNIE CALLAN, retirees EDUARDO SANTIAGO, ANNE BOYLON, Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center JEFF VOGEL, NINA HOWES, Beth Israel Medical Center EVERGREEN C. CHOU, Lutheran Medical Center LUCY HERSCHEL, Legal Aid Society
PENSION FUND LOSSES embers of 1199SEIU recently received a letter noting that our Pension Fund has lost nearly $3 billion. The letter went on to say that “The Economic Downturn Is Responsible For Your Pension Fund’s Crisis.” Yes, the market has crashed, but not all pension plans have sunk to 1199SEIU’s current “critical” status. Now is the time for our leadership to take appropriate responsibility for their questionable investments and explain to the rank-and-file what missteps led to this massive loss of union [pension] funds. Transparency and ownership are the way to move forward. An apology is also in order.
GEOFFREY A. HINCHCLIFFE New York Methodist Hospital, Brooklyn
FUND DIRECTOR RESPONDS
Unfortunately, we all know too well the devastating and far-reaching impact of the economic crisis, through months of daily headlines and the personal experiences we’ve all had with friends and family who have lost their jobs, savings and retirement security. The economy, not our investment strategy, hurt our Pension Fund. In fact, every pension fund in the country – corporate, public, institutional and union – lost a significant amount of their assets in just a few short months. Seventy-nine percent of multi-employer pension funds are now underfunded, and a third are in critical status, with many more to follow. These losses affected us deeply. Our Pension Fund depends upon very strong investment earnings to pay for a generous pension benefit – employer contributions alone cannot do the job. Our investment team, under the guidance of our Union and management trustees, ensures that our assets are diversified in different allocation classes (i.e., stocks, bonds, real estate, alternatives) to maximize returns and protect against losses. This universal pension fund strategy failed everyone when all sectors of the economy crashed. But, even taking into account the Pension Fund’s losses in the past year, we still beat the fiveyear median return for labor-management Taft-Hartley Funds nationwide. Mr. Hinchcliffe notes “Transparency and ownership are the way to move forward.” We agree. Throughout this crisis, we and the Union have worked to educate members about the status of their Pension Funds. We are always here to support our members, and we encourage members to contact us with questions and continue looking for updates in the mail and on our website. Mitra Behroozi Executive Director, 1199SEIU Benefit and Pension Funds
Summer 2009 • Our Life And Times
1199SEIU Pres. George Gresham, third from right, and League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes Pres. Bruce McIver, fourth from right, sign historic hard-won agreement that preserves members’ pensions and benefits. At right of Gresham is Sec. Treas. Maria Castaneda.
New York Members Save Their Benefits Marathon negotiations lead to historic contract victory. ate Sunday evening on July 19, the 500 leaders in 1199SEIU’s New York Region who comprised the 1199SEIU League Negotiating Committee made a decision that will have a profound influence on 1199ers for years to come. The Committee members refused to buckle and held fast until they were able to win a new contract with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes that secures the members’ world-class benefits and stabilizes their Pension Fund through April 2015. “There is no question that these dire economic times made these negotiations the most difficult in our Union’s history,” says 1199SEIU Pres. George Gresham. “We are extremely proud to have been able to protect our members’ defined pension benefits and comprehensive health benefits with no outof-pocket costs, while also securing wage increases.” When negotiations began in May, management representatives frequently cited news reports of workers who were being forced to give up benefits, pensions and wages as the price of retaining their jobs. Although concerned, members stood firm. Negotiating Committee member Sonia Flinch, a CNA at Elant at Holy Family Home in Brooklyn, shared concerns that were typical among members. “My daughter has sickle cell anemia,” Finch says. “Without our health benefits, I don’t know how I would pay for her care.”
o serious were the threats to the pension resulting from last year’s dramatic downturn in the economy, that 1199SEIU and the League decided to reopen the contract more than two years before it was scheduled to expire. “I came to 1199 because of the benefits and pension,” says Nicholas Denesopolis, lead receiving clerk at Lenox Hill Hospital in
Summer 2009 • Our Life And Times
Manhattan. “I’m not looking to be the richest guy, I just want some security. We got it.” Based on meetings and surveys, members made it clear that preserving health benefits, job security and their pensions were their priorities. The guiding slogan throughout the talks was “Save Our Benefits for Our Future.” Early on another slogan gained prominence, “The Price of Peace,” meaning that there could be no labor-management peace absent the meeting of the contract priorities. anagement agreed that over the life of the contract they will provide sufficient funding to protect all covered members’ pensions and benefits at their current levels. To preserve the benefits and all the funds, 1199ers had to make some concessions, mainly around wages. Retirees will continue to maintain their current health and pension benefit package, but two 3% cost-of-living adjustments for retirees scheduled to take effect in December 2009 and 2010 will be eliminated.
A 3% wage increase scheduled to take effect on Dec. 1, 2009 will be redirected to the Pension and Benefit Funds. A 3% wage increase scheduled to take effect on Dec. 1, 2010 will be reduced to 2%, paid on March 1, 2011. The other 1% will also be redirected to the Funds. 2.5% bonus will be paid on Aug. 1, 2012 and 2.5% wage increases will be paid on Oct.1, 2013 and Oct. 1 2014. The contract also allows employers to reduce their contribution to the Pension Fund in the event the Fund outperforms current projections. The difference in the payments would be split equally between the Union and management. The agreement also gives both sides the right to re-open the agreement on all issues other than the Pension Fund in September 2013. Throughout the bargaining sessions, members sported T-shirts that read, “50 Years on the Frontlines,” referring to the 50th anniversary of 1199 winning its first hospital contracts. “For 50 years, we have worked with management to obtain funding and to strengthen our institutions,” says Negotiating Committee member Maurice Philips of Terence Cardinal Cooke. “That partnership is too valuable to lose. We need to work together to fight for health care for all.” At press time, members were preparing to vote on the contract within their institutions.
“I thank the Lord for the pharmacist who formed this Union. Under the circumstances, this is a great contract,” Maurice DePalo, pharmacist, New York Westchester Square Hospital.
“We were able to win this contract because we kept our members informed and involved.” Elizabeth Akong, RN, Jamaica Hospital.
Mark Lindsay, a transporter at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, was able to purchase his Chrysler with a loan from 1199SEIU’s Federal Credit Union.
MEMBERS FIND FRIENDS AT 1199SEIU CREDIT UNION Services are expanded to meet growing need he fictional Bailey Savings and Loan Association headed by actor Jimmy Stewart in the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life” is the kind of banking institution working people long for. But the film’s evil and heartless Mr. Potter is closer to the experience of today’s lenders. That doesn’t have to be the case for 1199ers. The 1199SEIU Federal Credit Union (FCU), a member-owned notfor-profit institution, treats members like family rather than cash cows. “When I wanted to buy my last car, banks offered me exorbitant interest rates,” says Mark Lindsay, a transporter at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. “I called the credit union and they gave me a loan at less than half the bank rate.” “At commercial banks, I’m made to feel like a number. At our credit union, I feel like I’m talking to family.” “I believe that one of the most important services we offer our members is consulting they won’t get at commercial banks,” says FCU Director Nick Castellano. “And in response to the needs of our members and their families, the FCU has been growing safely and soundly, providing more services and easier access. Members also know that we
The 1199SEIU Federal Credit Union (FCU), a member-owned not-for-profit institution, treats members like family rather than cash cows.
fully respect their confidentiality, and that we take into account hardships like layoffs.” It’s not unusual for 1199ers to come into the offices in the Union’s Manhattan headquarters after exhausting all other avenues for assistance. Megha Singh, an assistant to Castellano, works with Joseph Romero, FCU’s loan education service specialist, to counsel those members. She recently assisted a Brooklyn member whose out-of-state relative had run up the member’s credit-card bill to the tune of $14,000. Singh, working with the member and the court, helped reduce the liability to $5,000. “An important part of our consulting is not to answer all the questions, but to help empower members to do for themselves,” Singh says. “Many need assistance in repairing their credit, or getting referrals for further assistance.” ingh notes that 1199ers are among the many sub-prime borrowers who have been victimized by unscrupulous lenders. Others complain about exorbitant credit card interest rates, which have often been increased for no apparent reason. In May, Congress passed, and Pres. Obama signed, legislation that put tougher
restrictions on credit card companies, including limits on when they can raise interest rates on cardholders who fall behind. FCU officers say much more is still needed to help consumers. FCU Senior Operating Officer Kathya Pierre says the FCU has grown substantially in membership and services during her 19 years there. “We have close to 50,000 members and we continue to make it easier for members to take advantage of all our services,” she says. mong those services are savings, checking, loans, mortgages, refinancing, insurance and debit cards. Online banking and share branching, in which members can use credit union offices at other sites, mean that 1199ers outside the New York metropolitan region now have access to the services. Members also can apply for loans by phone. In the near future, members will be able to pay their bills through the FCU online. “They are family,” Lenox Hill’s Lindsay says. “The credit union has helped me with refinancing loans and vacation loans. And what they can’t help you with, they will make a referral. I think the credit union is an invaluable asset for the members.”
Summer 2009 • Our Life And Times
Members Are Stretching Their Dollars “Later, things will get better. We cannot give up now.” In today’s economic crisis, prices and unemployment are climbing and wages are stagnant. Many working people have to stretch their hard earned dollars further than ever. “When I was young and raising my kids I had one job and my kids had everything,” says Sonia Marshall, a patient care associate at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, Mass. “I’d go to the grocery store with $100 and get groceries for two weeks.” That’s hardly the case now, says Cornelia Thompson, an LPN at the Methodist Church Home in the Bronx, N.Y. “To shop for a family of three I spend $300 or more a month for big groceries and then $80 to a $100 a week in between on small items,” she says. The cost of essentials, including food and clothing, continues to climb. Fuel prices, which had dipped, are going up again. And property taxes in some counties are through the roof. Workers’ wages seem to be the only thing not going up. And
The cost of essentials, including food and clothing, continues to climb. Fuel prices, which had dipped, are going up again. And property taxes in some counties are through the roof. Workers’ wages seem to be the only thing not going up.
employers are cutting back or laying off in nearly every sector of the economy. Those already facing financial difficulties are in an even more tenuous situation today. “My husband died and now I have to rely on credit cards to survive sometimes,” says Carmen Dolan, a housekeeper at Fieldston Lodge in the Bronx, N.Y. “Sometimes I use them to buy food, or clothes when I need them. I can’t do things like go to the movies and I don’t go out to
dinner unless my son takes me.” Dolan says she doesn’t like relying on credit cards. She does other things to make her paycheck stretch from week to week. “I make sure I keep things turned off and don’t turn the lights on until it gets dark,” she says. “I also cut off my house phone and only use my cell phone. I do a lot of washing by hand, too. That saves money.” Marshall and her husband are typical of many families. Her husband’s transportation business is slow. They pay a mortgage on their home and recently helped their daughter with her mortgage to keep her out of foreclosure. They each spend more than $200 per month on medication. As a result, they’ve found they occasionally have to rely on their local church’s food pantry to help with groceries, says Marshall. “There were times I started to feel low, but then I say ‘you cannot give up.’ There are so many resources out there that people don’t even know about,” says Marshall. “I knew our local Catholic church had a pantry, but I didn’t know our own church had one. There’s no reason to feel ashamed if you need help. Later, things will get better. We cannot give up now.” Thompson is her family’s sole support and says she sometimes feels overwhelmed. “All the basics get done, but what is not absolutely necessary is not done,” she says. “I only take the car in for maintenance when it needs it. There are no manicures or pedicures. Sometimes I have to say no to people if they ask me for something. I’ve cut back on buying meat and substitute beans.” Still, Thompson says, she tries to keep a positive outlook. “I’ve heard stories where people have turned away from their whole families because they couldn’t take care of them,” says Thompson. “Those stories of despair are dangerous. People should take it one step at a time. If they need help, reach out to social services or even the Union. If you need help for your family you should stand strong.”
Sonia Marshall (left), a patient care associate at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, Mass., says she and her husband each spend more than $200 a month on medication.
Summer 2009 • Our Life And Times
“It’s The First House I Ever Owned” ary Tillman (above) is a personal care attendant in Mattapan, Mass. She doesn’t make much money. She has custody of her three grandchildren and one great grandchild. Her three grandchildren have learning or behavior issues. Twelve years ago she purchased the Mattapan home she lives in with her family so she could get out of rental apartments for good. “A friend loaned me some money and I bought the house with $10,000 down,” says Tillman. Tillman’s husband, a military man stationed overseas, came home and saw that the house was badly in need of a lot of work, and insisted she sell it. She wouldn’t. After a few days of arguing, he left. They’ve been separated ever since. “It’s the first house I ever owned,” she says. Three years ago her estranged husband stopped sending home monthly support payments, says Tillman. Without his help she has a lot of trouble making the monthly mortgage payment. Her $11.60 per hour wage certainly isn’t enough to pay for a house and take care of four kids. Eighteen months ago things went really bad. “I was cleaning out the yard when I went into the driveway and I picked up some papers and they were foreclosure papers,” she says. “I thought ‘God, they can just drop them off like that’.”
ince then Tillman has been working with the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation Association (NACA) to stop the foreclosure on her home. Though she isn’t sure what is ultimately going to happen, Tillman has a good case to stop her home from going into foreclosure, she says, because she wasn’t legally notified. “The kids act out because they feel the stress of what’s going on,” she says. “But I do what I have to do every day.”
he 1199SEIU Benefit Fund, in association with the New York Mortgage Coalition, offers a variety of counseling services for members who are in the process of purchasing their first home and for those who have already purchased a home. Foreclosure prevention assistance is also readily available. The Benefit Fund Home Mortgage Program also holds regular seminars for members preparing to purchase a home. Additionally, members who are vested in the Greater New York or Health Care Employees Pension Funds and are buying a house, condominium, or co-op may be able to borrow against their pensions to assist with costs associated with down payments, refinancing or closing costs. For more information call (646)473-6484 or email members services @1199funds.org.
THE WORK WE DO
Members at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital Medical Center aid their community
hamplain Valley Physicians Hospital (CVPH) Medical Center is in Plattsburgh, N.Y., in the state’s North Country. It’s in the northeast corner of New York State, about 60 miles south of Montreal and a ferry ride across Lake Champlain from Vermont. The hospital serves a region that is no stranger to economic downturn. Over the years, the North Country and Plattsburgh have lost their share of good paying, industrial jobs. Several of the area’s major employers—including Georgia Pacific, the aircraft manufacturer Bombardier, and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals—recently announced additional layoffs. 1199SEIU represents 1,261 service, maintenance, clerical and technical workers at the hospital. CVPH is the North Country’s only major employer that is still hiring. Workers say that the facility is more than a place of employment; it’s part of the community. CVPH workers and management have pulled together to help those who are struggling. The development of a food pantry, starting a carpool program, and help accessing an energy assistance program are just some of the ways CVPH labor and management are cooperating to get through the economic crisis.
7 Summer 2009 • Our Life And Times
THE WORK WE DO
1. Peter Whalen has been an electrician at CVPH for five years. Whalen is a delegate and member of CVPH’s Recognition and Recruitment Committee. He was part of the team that helped implement initiatives like CVPH’s food pantry and car pool program. “We helped between 200 and 250 families this winter with our food pantry,” says Whalen.“It was all handled very discreetly. The lines here blur a lot, especially for good causes. We all work together for the common good. We’ve already planned one for next year.” 2. Patrick Sullivan is a PC technician at CVPH. He’s worked at the institution for 28 years. Sullivan is also CVPH’s rank-and-file community liaison. Sullivan keeps CVPH members up to date about every thing from energy programs to school and community budget issues. He keeps the community informed about developments at CVPH. “We decided a couple of years
Summer 2009 • Our Life And Times
ago that in order to improve the lives of people inside this building we needed to improve the lives of people outside this building,” says Sullivan. 3. “I can often empathize with patients and what they’re going through,” says Cathy Duprey, a clerk at CVPH’s Fitzgerald Cancer Center who is a single mother and raised her daughter on her own. “Things have gotten a lot better for me. I have a good income and a steady income. I have a dependable vehicle. I didn’t always have that.” 4. CVPH electrician Randy Trombley built a wood gasification boiler to heat his home. “It burns wood as cleanly as you can today,” says Trombley. “And I spent half to three quarters of what I would have spent to heat my home.” 5. “The biggest thing I’ve learned over the years is to save. I’ve never
had a credit card and I only use my debit card,” says food service worker Joan Agony. “I don’t go beyond my means. It’s really scary because retirement is not going to be there for my grandchildren. I heard they’re not going to give a cost of living increase to Social Security this year.” 6. Holly Lepore is a clerk at CVPH’s Fitzgerald Cancer Center. “A lot of people come in and say they love to see me smile. It puts people at ease if we reassure people and tell them that we will see them through things,” says Lepore. “We have patients who are impacted by the financial crisis. We ask people to come in for appointments and they have to weigh their options —do they spend the money on gas? We encourage people to car pool and we give people gas cards. A lot of our patients are struggling,” she says.
7. Caterer Donna Fountain handles all of the food for CVPH’s functions, including luncheons and meetings. “This week is Nurses’ Week, so yesterday I had four or five luncheons, but it varies,” she says. Last winter Fountain got help with home heating oil through a state energy assistance program. “It really helped,” says Fountain, who has four children, three grandchildren and one stepdaughter. “I’ve gotten it two years in a row. The Union has been really good about getting out the fliers. We have an old house and it’s hard to heat.” 8. “The patients I see are generally environmental patients. If there’s a stressful environment at home, that affects the kids,” says mental health tech Chris Koon. “Some kids come from families that have lost their homes. Parents feel the stress of the economy and they might act out on their kids.”
Yolanda Granda (left), a unit clerk at NYU Medical Center in Manhattan, with 1199SEIU Job Security Fund Service Coordinator Bengie Michel.
Job Security Net Rescues Laid Off Members Closings of 1199SEIU institutions challenges Security Fund.
Non-union workers are left with little recourse. 1199ers, a majority of whom are covered by the Union’s Job Security Fund, fare better.
Yolanda Granda thanks God and 1199SEIU for her good fortune. “Faith, hope, patience and a wonderful Union have helped me through,” Granda says in reference to her new job as a unit clerk at NYU Medical Center in Manhattan. Granda is one of the 1,500 members of 1199SEIU who lost their jobs in late February when Caritas Health Care turned a deaf ear to the pleas of residents, patients, faith-based communities and 1199ers and shuttered the doors to Mary Immaculate and St. John’s hospitals in Queens. The economic downturn, skyrocketing costs of health care, declining government support and, in some instances, mismanagement have led to closings and cutbacks at a growing number of healthcare institutions. Non-union workers are left with little recourse. 1199ers, a majority of whom are covered by the Union’s Job Security Fund (JSF), fare better. Granda is one who’s been rescued by the JSF’s safety net. “It made me so sad to know that St. John’s was closing,” Granda says. “I’d spent the last 40 years of my life there. I started right after high school.” Granda also was instrumental in turning St. John’s into an 1199SEIU institution as one of the members who bravely fought to unionize the hospital in the early 1970s. She says that she learned about life and unions at St. John’s. “You never know what the future may
bring, so you have to be prepared,” she counsels. “I know that other St. John’s members haven’t been as fortunate as I have. My husband, who worked in environmental services there, still hasn’t been placed.” Granda says that her transition was eased by Bengie Michel, her Job Service Coordinator at the JSF. “She was always kind and patient and she helped me to remain optimistic,” Granda says of Michel. St. John’s and Mary Immaculate members also are being assisted by another of their own. Sonia Jackson, who was an 1199SEIU delegate for many years, is working as a liaison at the JSF helping members address issues such as collecting stipends, preparing resumes, doing interviews, extending family health benefits and taking tests and classes. “I got a job in Jamaica Hospital about a month after the closing,” says Earl Cameron, a former 16-year pharmacy tech at St. John’s. Cameron was assisted in the JSF’s Hicksville, L.I., office. “Without our Union I would be lost,” Cameron says. “They did a fantastic job placing me.” Granda say that she is praying that her husband has her good fortune and finds something soon – in an 1199SEIU institution. Her son is an 1199SEIU RN and her daughter is scheduled to graduate from nursing school this year. “We all work in health care,” Granda says. “I’ve been blessed. Que viva 1199.”
Summer 2009 • Our Life And Times
An Intergenerational Discussion Retiree Frances Hubbard and young member Lisette Crime talk about how the current economic crisis can be an opportunity to organize. For this issue, Our Life And Times once again moderated a discussion between one of our young members and one of our retirees. Frances Hubbard, 79, is a retired 1199 Vice President who started in 1199 as a rankand-file member at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. Hubbard now lives in Springfield, Mass. Lisette Crime, 24, is a delegate and activist at Lynn Community Health in Lynn, Mass. The conversation took place at Crime’s home in Lynn where she lives with her threeyear-old son Ganife. Following is an excerpt from Hubbard and Crime’s conversation, which covered a variety of topics including politics, health care, union leadership, economics, and the challenges of being a single mother. Crime: How did you come to the union? Hubbard: I worked in two places where there was no union —the Rockefeller Institute in Manhattan, where the salary was low, but there was a 32-hour workweek, and NYU in Manhattan where the salary was better but the hours were longer. I was a working mother on a low salary. I was constantly worried about child care. At that time if you didn’t get there before 6 p.m. they took your child to the police station and I couldn’t get there before six many times, so I moved to the Bronx and got a job at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Everything was fine, but I had a domestic problem; I was the victim of domestic violence, so I hid from [my husband], moved to a different part of the Bronx, and applied for a job at Montefiore. I didn’t immediately know about the benefits, but I was just happy to join the Union. Hubbard: How do you feel about your role as a leader of women in the Union? Crime: I feel very good about being part of anything that has to do with helping women. I’m independent. I want to do things to help other people learn and become leaders on their own. In this economic situation we have to organize. Everyone can be a leader no matter what their situation. I have bills. I have to move out of my apartment, but I
Summer 2009 • Our Life And Times
know I have to keep moving forward. I have a son. I have a big responsibility. I want him to know that when he grows up he has to do the same thing. Crime: What has your experience been in the struggle for health care? Hubbard: MassHealth (our public health system) is a result of the civil rights movement. Workers marched—particularly union workers—along with Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King and Rev. Abernathy. We may not think of health care as a right, but the things that came out of those fights are MassHealth and public health care. The struggle for health care has been ongoing in this country. And now Massachusetts is a model for health care. Finally it looks like universal healthcare is the way the country is going to go. Crime: What is the solution for passing the Employee Free Choice Act?
Hubbard: We need to keep on fighting. We need to keep writing editorials. We need to keep getting the people in the unions behind it. We need to get the people themselves to keep their voices behind it. The fact that there is controversy means that people are still paying attention. We need to figure out how to keep the conversation going until we can get it passed. Hubbard: What are the ways you have been addressing difficulties that working people have been facing lately? Crime: It was advocacy day in April, so we went to the State House and talked to our representatives about budget cuts. I realize that the government has to make cuts somewhere, but a lot of what they’re cutting isn’t fair. I’m in a
situation where I’ve applied for aid and other kinds of help and I’m not eligible because I’m working. I’m also part of the Union’s Young Workers Program. We’re really trying to do something about getting our young people to go back to college. Crime: How do you handle all the bad news and negativity we hear today? Hubbard: You know it’s a little difficult for me to think of negativity in today’s society because Barack Obama is our president. My mother’s grandparents were born before the Emancipation Proclamation. We’ve progressed from being chattel slaves to having all the things we have now. I’ve been in parts of the world where people like you would have been chosen to care for the healthcare leaders of their communities. I don’t want to be called an eternal optimist because I can see that people are suffering, but I can see that things are changing and people are determined to change our conditions.
“I feel very good about being part of anything that has to do with helping women. I’m independent. I want to do things to help other people learn and become leaders on their own. — Lisette Crime “I don’t want to be called an eternal optimist because I can see that people are suffering, but I can see that things are changing and people are determined to change our conditions. — Frances Hubbard
OUR HEALTH CARE
The Path to Healthcare Equality Members look to Washington for relief. ot all 1199ers have the worldclass health benefits just negotiated by the Union’s New York hospital and nursing home members. New 1199er Pamela Drew, for example, has been in health insurance limbo for years. “I’m always flying in the middle as far as health care is concerned,” says Drew, a home healthcare worker at the Washington, D.C. Vital Management Team (VMT) for two years. Drew has bounced in and out of eligibility for Medicaid and public health care for low-income residents. “We went through periods where I didn’t have insurance and my (now adult) daughter didn’t either,” Drew says. “I would take my daughter to the emergency room and deal with it later.” Workers at VMT, who earn $10.50 per hour and have no paid sick or vacation time, voted to join 1199SEIU a year ago. But they are still negotiating a first contract. Drew and her co-workers hope to secure healthcare benefits in that contract. “If I work too many hours, I’m not covered by Medicaid,” Drew says. “Last year I made $15,000. If you make over $20,000, you don’t get it. I don’t want to be in this situation. I would rather make as much money as I can.” “Universal health care would be a considerable asset for me,” she says. “Don’t we take care of people? It’s ludicrous to me. I should be at the pinnacle of health because I’m helping people.”
“Universal health care would be a considerable asset for me.” Pamela Drew, a home healthcare worker with Washington, D.C.’s Vital Management Team.
rew likes her work and is planning to get a nursing degree. “I like providing companionship for the folks and making it easier for them to be at home – they feel freer,” she says. “When they’re happy, I’m happy. It’s good for the soul.”
But she has more immediate goals. “I have a bad tooth that needs to be pulled. I got a referral but the hospital was full and wouldn’t take me. I had to go back to the dental clinic, get another referral and take more antibiotics and I still couldn’t get my tooth pulled. One day my teeth were so bad, my client offered me her pain medication.” Drew is not alone. More than 48 million Americans without insurance worry about how to pay for their medical care and medication. An equal number have inadequate insurance coverage with high premiums, deductibles and co-payments. One is 1199er Dely Sirilan, a dietary aide at Emerson, Health Care Center in Emerson, N.J. “I had to take a part-time job because I’m afraid of missing bill payments and ruining my credit,” Sirilan says. he says she also hopes to make improvements in her next contract. “Everything is not covered,” she says. “And some of us at Emerson are reluctant to go to our doctors because of the deductibles we have to pay. We also have copayments for our prescriptions.” In 2007, Emerson workers struck for three days to protect their benefits. “We need national health insurance. I support all the members who are out working for it. People have it all over the world and in Canada. Why can’t we have it here?” Sirilan and Drew hope to ease their healthcare woes by getting good union contracts. But the crisis cannot be solved locally. Those with insurance subsidize those without. 1199SEIU is supporting Pres. Obama’s healthcare plan, which includes a quality public option to lower costs, as the first step in the direction of universal care.
Summer 2009 • Our Life And Times
CVPH Medical Center occupational therapist Liz Clark takes the pressure she feels to the gym.
Sound Mind, Sound Body Members find healthy ways to manage stress in economic downturn.
Today’s economic crisis is not only endangering people’s financial health; it’s taking a toll on their physical health as well. Experts and medical professionals are seeing an uptick in all sorts of stress-related conditions: dental associations are reporting more patients who grind their teeth and need bite guards; behavioral health professionals are seeing more patients with stress related sleep disorders, stomach issues, and back pain; and the American Legacy Foundation found in a survey last year that a quarter of smokers reported an increase in their smoking due to concerns about the economy. In many cases, bodies are taking the same beating as 401(k)’s in this economic downturn. Liz Clark, an occupational therapist at CVPH Medical Center in Plattsburgh, N.Y., says people engage habits like smoking or unhealthful eating to feel in control. “It’s incredibly important in
Summer 2009 • Our Life And Times
times like these to gain control over situations that seem out of control,” says Clark. “But you can
Moogan is no stranger to economic shifts. Her husband was laid off from his job as a chef a
“Things like yoga and meditation weren’t meant for special people. They were meant for everybody.”
do it by setting small goals. Can you walk to the store? Can you plant a garden? You can allow yourself something special.” One result of this increased societal stress level is that she’s been seeing more interest in the work she does, says Linden Moogan, a creative arts and movement therapist at Interfaith Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y.
couple of years ago. She came to Interfaith as a result of losing her job at St. Vincent’s Midtown when that hospital closed in 2007. The couple has four children. “I’ve been dealing with the issue of downsizing for a while now and being a movement therapist is something I’ve relied upon to help me,” she says. “I love it when the staff hovers around my classes. I tell them to
come in and that they can benefit,” says Moogan. “Things like yoga and meditation weren’t meant for special people. They were meant for everybody. You can just lie in your bed and focus on your breath. Our culture is so consumer-based. Now, people are really having to rethink what is in the world and who they are in the world.” Liz Clark says honest communication is also a vital tool for managing in these times. Clark and her husband, who is a pilot, have two young sons. “We talk about things with our kids,” she says. “It’s important for them to understand why we need to change things, why we need to turn the lights off or use an extra blanket. We try to explain why things are the way they are. But I also allow myself to be proud of what we do have and what we have accomplished. So I don’t feel like we’re drowning and I keep some perspective.”
? TEST YOUR FINANCIAL LITERACY
1) What is a defined benefit pension plan? a. Plan in which employee contributes defined amount each paycheck. b. Plan in which employer pays into a fund and employee receives fixed amount in retirement. c. Another name for a 401(K) plan.
2) How does a credit union differ from a commercial bank? a. A credit union is a division of a trade union like 1199SEIU. b. A credit union has tougher restrictions. c. A credit union is owned by its members.
3) How many free credit reports can you get each year? a. 1 b. 2 c. 3 4) What was the average household credit card debt at the end of 2008? a. More than $5000 b. More than $10,000 c. More than $20,000 5) Is your liability for a stolen debit card limited to $50, as it is for a stolen credit card? a. Yes b. No
6) What is the best way to pay off a high credit card debt? a. Apply for another card with a low introductory rate. b. Obtain a bank loan. c. Make more than the minimum payment each month. 7) Is a Roth IRA better than a traditional IRA? a. Yes b. No 8) How often should you update your will? a. When your situation changes. b. Once every three years. c. When you get seriously ill.
9) How high are the reported interest rates on a tax refund loan? a. 20% b. 200% c. 2,000% 10) What is the best way to protect yourself from mortgage modification scams? a. Contact your lender or mortgage servicer immediately. b. Get the terms of agreement in writing. c. Shop around for companies that do mortgage modifications.
2) c. A credit union is owned by its members. Its profits are not pocketed by shareholders but are used for services for the credit union members.
3) c. You are permitted to receive one free report each year from each of the three credit reporting agencies – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. 4) b. Average household creditcard debt at the end of last year was $10,679. 5) b. Your liability for unauthorized use of your ATM or debit card can be much greater than $50, depending on how quickly you report the loss.
6) a. Apply for another credit card with a low introductory rate, transfer your debts to that card and make a budget that allows you to start paying off your total debt.
every three years to reflect changes in the law or in your own situation.
7) a. Yes. Unlike a traditional lRA, a Roth IRA provides tax-free withdrawal in retirement.
10) a. Contact your lender or mortgage servicer first. Speak with someone in the loss mitigation department for mortgage modification options and other alternatives to foreclosure.
8) b. Because estate laws change often, financial advisers recommend you have an attorney draft your will and have it updated
9) c. Preparers have been known to charge rates as high as 2,000%.
1) b. Under a defined pension plan, the employer pays into a fund in which the assets are pooled and invested. Once the employee is vested and retired, he or she receives a monthly amount each month for the rest of their lives.
1199SEIU FEDERAL CREDIT UNION PERSONAL BUDGET PLANNER ITEMS
PAYROLL DEDUCTIONS FICA MEDICARE FEDERAL TAX STATE TAX LOCAL TAX CREDIT UNION SHARE DEPOSIT UNION CONTRIBUTIONS HOUSING RENT/MORTGAGE HEATING/FUEL GAS/ELECTRIC WATER/SERVER MAINTENANCE/FEES HOME PHONE HOME INSURANCE REAL ESTATE TAXES TRANSPORTATION CAR PAYMENT CAR INSURANCE GAS/OIL CAR REPAIRS TOLLS MASS TRANSIT FAMILY FOOD & GROCERIES CHILD CARE/BABYSITTING ALIMONY/CHILD SUPPORT CLOTHING HAIR SALON/BARBER TOILETRIES MEDICAL/DENTAL INSURANCE (LIFE, DISABILTY) TUITION EATING OUT/DRINKS ALLOWANCES HOLIDAYS GIFTS MOVIES/CONCERTS, SPORTS VACATIONS VIDEO RENTALS/CABLE INTERNET SUPPLIES/POSTAGE CLEANING/LAUNDRY GYM MEMBERSHIP PERSONAL UNIFORMS/WORK CLOTHES CELL PHONE LUNCH LOTTERY/GAMBLING RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS CHARITABLE DONATIONS BOOKS & PUBLICATIONS
Summer 2009 • Our Life And Times
AROUND OUR UNION
Around the Union More than 1,700 Massachusetts Hospital Workers Vote to Join 1199SEIU In three elections over the last several months more than 1,700 Massachusetts hospital workers voted overwhelmingly for representation by 1199SEIU. The elections took place after the Union and the employers completed innovative agreements that would ensure free and fair voting conditions for the workers as they were deciding whether to join the union. Some 800 service, clerical and technical workers at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, Mass., voted overwhelmingly to join 1199SEIU in April. The vote’s results were announced at the hospital on April 9. St. Elizabeth’s is the largest institution in the Caritas Christi Health Care chain. Workers approved representation by 1199SEIU with 73% of the vote. “We know that it’s possible to come together as hospital workers and give healthcare workers a voice,” said Cynthia Bates, a St. Elizabeth’s PCA who was among the organizing campaign’s leaders. Over the past 35 years workers at St. Elizabeth’s have tried to unionize three times. Cynthia Bates said this victory was just the beginning for Boston’s healthcare workers. “We will be
with you until every single hospital worker in Boston has a chance to make up his or her own mind and have a free and fair election,” she said. At Carney Hospital in Dorchester, which is also part of the Caritas Christi Health Care chain, nearly 500 service, clerical and technical workers voted overwhelmingly for 1199SEIU representation in a two-day election in June. The votes were counted on June 10, with nearly 80% of the workers voting for Union representation. “This has been a long time coming and we are thrilled,” said Carney Hospital Nuclear Medicine Technician Kathy Riley. And at Union Hospital in Lynn some 400 service and technical workers voted for representation by 1199SEIU by a margin of 73%. The results of that election were announced at the hospital on July 10. Those workers join an existing 1199SEIU bargaining unit at the hospital that includes registered nurses, physical therapists and medical technologists. “By joining 1199SEIU we’ll be able to work together to have access to quality care that’s affordable for our families,” said Union Hospital Operation Assistant Kwesi Jones.
New Jersey Members Fight For Health Care Budget And Fair Contracts
home workers at four homes run by owner Avery Eisenreich. On June 4 hundreds 1199SEIU New Jersey Region members took their fight against crippling state budget cuts to the state capital in Trenton. Gov. John Corzine and the New Jersey state legislature initially proposed cutting $100 million from the state’s health care budget. Some 2,000 1199ers - including members from New York City and Maryland and the District of Columbia - and their coalition partners rallied and demanded adjustment of the state’s budget gap through the “Better Choices” plan, which includes adjusting the state income tax, curbing business tax loopholes and raising fuel taxes on gas guzzlers, like SUVs.
embers of the 1199SEIU New Jersey Region continue to be on the front lines of the battle for health care. A June 4 rally by 1199ers helped restore $28 million in health care funding to New Jersey’s state budget. And a July 8 Rally For Justice at Castle Hill Nursing Center in Union City saw them fighting for fair contracts for hundreds of nursing
Summer 2009 • Our Life And Times
he budget that was passed on June 25 preserved $28 million in health care funding. “Now is exactly the wrong time to ask nursing homes across the state to cut corners,” said Renee Brown, an LPN at Alameda Center for Rehabilitation in Perth Amboy. “Instead of asking New Jersey’s seniors to sacrifice their health and comfort, the state’s wealthiest residents should pitch in just a little more.” And on July 8 several hundred 1199ers, community members, elected officials and representatives from other labor unions marched and rallied at Castle Hill Health Care Center in Union City, N.J. at a Rally for Justice in support of workers from four New Jersey nursing homes who have been without contracts since 2007. The homes include Castle Hill Nursing Center Union City, Harbor View Health Center in Jersey City, Palisade Nursing Home in Guttenberg, and Bristol Manor Health Care Center in Rochelle Park. Multi-millionaire Avery Eisenreich owns the homes, which are part of the Omni chain. “We’ve got three years with no contract and no benefits and
Top: PCA Cynthia Bates, right, and her coworkers were joined by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, Mass. for their April 9 election victory announcement. Bottom: New Jersey members and supporters rallied July 8 in Union City, NJ, to demand a fair contract for members in the Omni nursing home chain. it’s hard for us,” says Castle Hill CNA Francois Marquise, a negotiating committee member. “Nobody can live on our salaries.” 1199SEIU members say their goal is to raise standards at all Omni homes. “We need to make more money. We work hard,” says Castle Hill CNA Donna Casillas. “We can barely make ends meet now.” he workers were joined by a host of supporters; including 1199SEIU brothers and sisters from New York City, several local labor groups, and many community leaders and elected officials. Union City Mayor Brian Stack, Assemblyman Reuben Ramos, (NJ-D) and Hudson Co. Executive Thomas DeGise all pledged their support and promised to stand by the workers as long as it takes to get a contract.
THE BACK PAGE
New York 1199ers Stand Strong And Win Historic Pact New York Region 1199ers settled an historic agreement with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes on July 19 after some eight weeks of tense negotiations. The contract was settled after the League and the Union agreed to re-open the collective bargaining agreement in an effort to preserve members’ pensions and benefits in the struggling economy. Under the new agreement members pensions, benefits, job
security and all the Funds were preserved. “There is no question that these dire economic times made these negotiations the most difficult in our Union’s history” says 1199SEIU Pres. George Gresham. “We are extremely proud to have been able to protect our members’ defined pension benefits and comprehensive health benefits with no out-of-pocket costs, while also securing wage increases.” See story on p. 5.