Page 1

A JOURNAL OF 1199SEIU May/June 2011


Thousands of 1199ers and their family members marched May 14 to support Pocono (PA) Medical Center workers’ contract fight. See page 11.

Contents 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 13 15

THE HIGH COST OF POOR HEALTH Caregivers must care for themselves, too. PRESIDENT’S COLUMN Our country isn’t broke, but the economy needs to be fixed. FIGHTING FOR A FAIR ECONOMY We’re helping build a grassroots movement of change for working people. THE WORK WE DO Our Registered Nurses at Orange Regional Medical Center in Middletown, NY. OUR GOOD HEALTH Living a healthy lifestyle is also a dollars and cents issue. MASSACHUSETTS AND NJ ADVOCACY DAYS Quality care and jobs are focus of Boston and Trenton rallies. WE ARE FAMILY Thousands attend May 14 rally supporting workers at Pocono Medical Center. NEGOTIATING WITH HCA Florida members make unprecedented gains. PEOPLE Baltimore’s Mario Roseborough is a singer. AROUND THE UNION May Day, contract roundup and a Syracuse rally.

p.8 Our Life And Times, May/June 2011, Vol 29, No 3 Published by 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East 310 West 43rd St. New York, NY 10036 Telephone (212) 582-1890 PRES I DE NT :

George Gresham





Belinda Gallegos ART DI RECTION & DES IG N :

Maiarelli Studio COVE R PHOTO : Jim Tynan



Norma Amsterdam Yvonne Armstrong Lisa Brown Angela Doyle Aida Garcia George Kennedy Steve Kramer Patrick Lindsay Joyce Neil John Reid Bruce Richard Mike Rifkin Neva Shillingford Milly Silva Veronica Turner Laurie Vallone Estela Vazquez

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 1080-3089. USPS 000-392. Postmaster: Send address changes to Our Life And Times, 310 West 43rd St., New York, NY 10036.

Orange Regional Medical Center’s Nurse of Distinction award winner Linda Piroleau



The High Cost of

POOR HEALTH Take care, caregivers. The majority of 1199SEIU members and their families in the New York metropolitan region are covered by the 1199SEIU National Benefit Fund. In addition to these half million members and immediate family in the Fund, the NBF also administers benefits for homecare and nursing home members in the New York region. The well-being of members is in everyone’s interest. Poor health exacts a heavy toll on members’ quality of life and their productivity, and on the bottom line of the Funds. Therefore, the NBF, jointly administered by an equal number of management and union trustees, constantly searches for ways to improve the health of members and their families. Towards this goal, the NBF constantly takes statistical snapshots. And based on the latest statistics and screenings of members who have attended recent NBF health fairs, our collective health is in critical condition. Three out of eight NBF recipients are being treated for hypertension and one of seven are now treated for diabetes. Almost three out of four members screened at New York health fairs are either hypertensive or prehypertensive. These chronic diseases are reducing members’ quality of life and sapping our health funds. • The NBF spends $1.4 billion each year for health benefits. • $800 million of that goes to medical claims — and 63.5% of that $800 million is spent on members and spouses who have chronic conditions, • $88 million is spent on members and spouses with heart disease, • $213 on members and spouses with diabetes, and, • $332 million on members and spouses with hypertension. By addressing these chronic diseases, countless lives could be saved and funds could be made available for other important uses. For NBF-covered members, help is available. The NBF and 1199SEIU have just launched a campaign to create a culture of health. Members are being urged to get moving by doing some form of exercise, improve their eating habits, taking part in disease management programs and taking advantage of professional health coaches. A 24-hour nurse helpline has been established to assist callers. At the centerpiece of the culture of health campaign is a disease management program. This includes personalized support to help manage cardiac conditions and diabetes. Members are able to work

The well-being of members is in everyone’s interest. Poor health exacts a heavy toll on members’ quality of life and their productivity, and on the bottom line of the Funds.


May/June • Our Life And Times

with experienced nurses via phone. The program is voluntary and entirely confidential and it does not in any way replace the member’s treatment plan with her or his doctor. And members do not have to be covered by the NBF to incorporate many of these common-sense changes into their lifestyle. Other health funds include wellness programs and tips on issues like nutrition and exercise. Leslie Stafford is a patient access representative and delegate at Boston Medical Center. Using the Oprah Boot Camp program, she’s lost 18 pounds. Though slim when she was younger, her weight crept up over the years. Now she’s gone from a size 14 to a size 8. She power walks daily, drinks plenty of water, cuts out foods like sugar and pork, and doesn’t eat after 8 p.m. “You have to want to do it for you. If you try to do it for somebody else you’re not going to be the person you really want to be,” she says. Isn’t it about time we all took care of ourselves?

A homecare worker from the Cooperative Agency in the Bronx, NY, having her blood pressure checked at an 1199SEIU National Benefit Fund health fair held in April at the agency’s headquarters.


Our Country Is Not Broke But our economy is broken. Each day we’re forced to listen to politicians and pundits cry about how our country is broke. They point to the fact that our national debt has exploded and then call for deep cuts in public services and in the number of public workers. But the truth is our country is not broke. Today’s U.S. economy is more than twice as large as it was 30 years ago. The productivity of American workers is at an all-time high. The money is there, but the problem is that the last two decades have seen the greatest upwards transference of wealth in our nation’s history. The rich have gotten richer and the super-rich have earned super profits. Fully 80 percent of our nation’s total income growth over the past two decades has gone to the top one percent in our nation. During this year’s first quarter, Exxon, the world’s largest oil company, posted a 69 percent earnings increase. Profits for Chevron, the nation’s number two oil company, rose 36 percent, and for number three, ConocoPhillips, it was 43 percent. And these three mega-corporations didn’t pay a penny in federal taxes last year. Meanwhile, one in six workers is unemployed. Real wages have declined. Every 20 seconds another worker files for bankruptcy, and every minute two more families lose their homes. Yet, instead of supporting programs that provide good jobs and essential services, too many of our elected officials are promoting more free rides for the corporations and tax cuts for the rich. They aim to pay for these giveaways by destroying our public services, neglecting our cities’ infrastructures, dismantling healthcare reform, scapegoating immigrant workers and decimating our unions with so-called right-to-work and other anti-worker initiatives. Our economy no longer works for American workers. And it is time to turn it around by shifting our nation’s priorities. And it’s time for those who have been taking all of our country’s wealth to begin giving back to the rest of us. Our national union, SEIU, has begun the process with a campaign called Fight for a Fair Economy (FFE). We at 1199SEIU are an integral part of that campaign. The campaign recognizes that we can’t solve the crisis with one bargaining fight, organizing campaign or political election at a time. We need a comprehensive plan that tackles the fundamental imbalance of power in the country and that puts the needs of working families at the top of our national priorities. The recent fightback in states such as Wisconsin and Ohio are indicative of the anger across the country and of people’s willingness to confront the rich and powerful. We will seek to harness that anger by uniting with other unions and engaging the broadest coalition possible. Among our goals are preserving quality public services, protecting and strengthening healthcare reform, stopping antiworker attacks and paving the way for comprehensive immigration reform. SEIU has targeted 17 key cities, five of which are in 1199SEIU jurisdictions. They are Boston, New York, Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and Miami. Our plan is to recruit at least 10,000 member activists to help lead efforts in these five cities. Meetings of delegates and other members are taking place now across 1199SEIU regions on how best to execute the campaign. Our Maryland/DC Division, which helped to initiate the Good Jobs Better Baltimore coalition, was the first out of the gate with an action outside the offices of Baltimore Gas and Electric, the utility responsible for the biggest rate hikes in the nation. Our other cities will follow soon. The FFE campaign will peak in the summer of 2012 and extend through next year’s national elections. Please join us by speaking to your organizers and delegates. Only with your help will we be able to reshape our national agenda and put the interests of working people at the top of our national priorities.

Letters MAY DAY SOLIDARITY n May Day, International Workers Day, 1199SEIU members were proud to join with several unions, immigration and community groups in a march from Union Square to Foley Square in New York City. Signs demanded: “Stop the deportations!” (392,000 people were deported last year), “Make the billionaires pay!” “Stop military spending in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya.” In 2011 New Yorkers will pay $15.5 billion in taxes to maintain the war budget. May Day commemorates the huge labor strikes of the 1880’s where workers fought and died for the eight-hour day. During the repressive McCarthy period in this country, May Day was pushed aside in favor of Labor Day. But five years ago it was revived with demands for immigration reform. This year’s rally was remarkable because community and immigration groups made every effort to join with the labor contingent. 1199SEIU’s President George Gresham said at our last New York Region Joint Delegate Assembly that the unionized labor force is shrinking, so we need to unite with community groups if we’re going to win. A good example of this is the fight for tax reform in Oregon. A coalition of over 250 union and community groups including the SEIU, Jobs with Justice, AFSCME, the AFL-CIO, the Oregon Education Association, and the AARP worked together. They organized a grassroots campaign to close state budget deficits by increasing taxes on the rich and corporations. And they won. In Vermont, the Nurses Union is working with the Vermont Workers Center and undocumented immigrants who work in the dairy industry to get a single-payer healthcare plan at the state level. Let’s continue to collaborate for the needs of working people. Together we can send these billion-


aires where they belong — to the moon! NINA HOWES Beth Israel Medical Center, New York City RAIMUNDO VALDEZ St. Luke’s Hospital, New York City PENSION FUND t’s been about two years since we, the taxpayers, bailed out the Wall Street bankers and insurance companies. It was their corrupt quest for greater wealth that led to the collapse of our economy, which had a disastrous effect on our Pension Fund. It would be most instructive for 1199SEIU members if we knew the details of the story that led to our Pension Fund losing a full one-third of its value, three billion dollars, in this collapse. We urge our magazine to do an in-depth article on this crucial issue. Only a well-informed membership will be able to stand up to the insatiably greedy Wall Street tycoons who are once again raking in near record profits while unemployment remains high, hospitals close, and union workers in Wisconsin and across the country have their backs to the wall.


BETH ISRAEL MEDICAL CENTER DELEGATES (Petrie Division) New York City Editor’s Note: The above letter presents a great idea and we plan to do such an article in the near future. And although our Pension Fund was hard hit, it fortunately was insulated from much of the damage that ruined other funds and individuals. And the Fund has prospered in the last two years. Let’s Hear From You Our Life And Times welcomes your letters. Please email them to or snail mail them to JJ Johnson, 1199SEIU OLAT, 330 West 42nd St., 7th floor, New York, NY 10036. Please include your telephone number and place of work. Letters may be edited for brevity and clarity.

New York City May Day marchers

May/June • Our Life And Times



NEEDED: An Economy That Works for Workers We’re building a grassroots movement. Almost three years after our nation’s economic collapse, profits are soaring for the mega-corporations and the rich are getting richer. But our economy is not working for most of our nation’s workers. And instead of putting our country back to work, elected officials are pushing for more giveaways to the corporations and more tax cuts for the rich. We have begun a movement to change that. 1199SEIU and its national union, SEIU, have launched a campaign to change the nation’s political climate by focusing on the glaring economic inequalities and the imbalance of power that have accelerated in the 21st century. 1199SEIU members and staff were among the 1,600 SEIU members and staff who gathered in Los Angeles March 26-28 to help roll out the campaign. Participants committed themselves to: • Shine a light on the corporations and wealthy who caused the crisis in the first place and are making it worse by failing to provide good jobs or pay their share of taxes. • Band together – in protests and at the ballot box — to remind politicians that we are the majority and we expect them to protect workers’ rights, immigrants, and public services. • Build and strengthen our unions to create good jobs and an economy that works for everyone.


May/June • Our Life And Times

1199ers – eventually 10,000 strong – will be working in their workplaces and within their communities in Boston, New York City, Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and Miami. Recruiting is underway and some areas already have begun activities. For example, in the spring, Good Jobs Better Baltimore, a community-labor coalition initiated by 1199ers in the Union’s Maryland-DC Division, descended on the headquarters of Constellation Energy, the parent company of Baltimore Gas & Electric, to expose and help put an end to the company’s astronomical rate hikes and other destructive practices. One of the speakers at the action was Byron Beckford, a Baltimore resident and a dietary aide at Baltimore’s Sinai Hospital. “I’m not ashamed to admit that I went without heat all winter because the utility rate was too high,” Beckford says. “I was forced to use my oven and space heaters.” Beckford has spent his entire life in Baltimore and is raising a three-year old daughter. “I grew up in Baltimore,” he says. “I see it, smell it and taste it every day, and I don’t like what’s going on for poor and working people. We have to make companies like BG&E accountable.” Coalition members have lobbied at the state capitol and have rallied in front of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, the big

Baltimore’s Sinai Hospital dietary aide Byron Beckford (holding bullhorn) speaks at May 7 picket and rally against Baltimore Gas & Electric’s excessive rate hike. business lobby that’s been blocking legislation to make millionaires and corporations pay their fair share in taxes. They also scored an impressive victory when they forced developers to drop their plan to demolish the Read’s drug store building, a Baltimore landmark where one of the nation’s first civil rights sit-ins took place in 1955. In Massachusetts, the MASSUNITING campaign kicked off on May 7. Thirteen 1199SEIU members are full time canvassers for the program and more Union members are showing interest in the movement. In the first six days, 1199SEIU canvassers, along with canvassers from other local groups and community organizations, knocked on more than 15,000 doors and received more than 2,000 MASSUNITING commitment cards. “I signed up for the Fight for a Fair Economy canvass because the economy is bad,” says Brandi Turner, an 1199SEIU PCA from Boston. “I believe everyone needs help…By joining MASSUNITING I am making a contribution for my family and neighbors. I like to spread the word."

Instead of putting our country back to work, elected officials are pushing for more giveaways to the corporations and more tax cuts for the rich.


1 4

1. Shannon Keesler, with patient Janiel Vitali, 9, says new computerized medical records are making nurses’ lives easier. “No more chasing charts around. We don’t have to go looking for orders. It just makes things so much more efficient. Everything just takes one click,” she says. 2. “I just enjoy working with the mothers and babies. I like helping them achieve new parenthood and helping them transition to becoming new parents,” says Ellen Bane Mahony, who has been working on ORMC’s post-partum unit for 31 years. Here she’s shown with newborn Josyah Williams. 3. Nurse of Distinction award winner Linda Piroleau, shown with patient George Burrow, has worked on ORMC’s pediatric, bone and joint and med/surg units for nine years. “I like helping people. It’s a rewarding field to be in. It can be a little scary, like when we get our respiratory babies,” she says. “It’s a lot of critical thinking. It’s good when they go home. It’s challenging and rewarding.” 4. Float nurse Michelle Dymond with newborn Vivienne Louise Sharp. Dymond has three kids of her own and works all over the hospital. “Every day I sign up and I go somewhere different, but I just love the mother-baby unit,” she says. “I just love the newborns. It’s just a happy environment and the staff is friendly and helpful.”


May/June • Our Life And Times



THE WORK WE DO: ORANGE REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER’S RNS May was National Nurses Month, so Our Life And Times visited some of our RNs at Orange Regional Medial Center in Middletown, NY, for this edition of “The Work We Do.” Among them was Nurse of Distinction award winner Linda Piroleau. Piroleau was nominated by her peers for the annual joint labor-management prize, which is given out to nurses for their excellence and professional dedication. “It was so thoughtful, but I am who I am because of my co-workers,” she says. “We are such a great team. We support each other.”


May/June • Our Life And Times


CAREGIVERS MUST CARE FOR THEMSELVES Our good health is a dollars and cents issue.

n March, the 1199SEIU National Benefit Fund (NBF) gathered more than 1,500 New York Region delegates in the ballroom of a Manhattan hotel and delivered some startling statistics: Nearly 40 percent of NBF-eligible 1199ers have or are at risk for heart disease, 14 percent have diabetes, and adults with high cholesterol, hypertension and other chronic diseases make up nearly 64 percent of the Fund’s total adult health costs. Additionally, 80 percent of all members screened at Fund health fairs in 2010 had weight issues, with 36 percent of them qualifying as obese. The meeting was part of an effort to foster a culture of good health among all 1199SEIU members. Delegates discussed ways to encourage caregivers to spend more time caring for themselves. “We have to lead by example,” said Lisa Greene, an RN at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx. “Whether it’s losing weight or quitting smoking, if you just go on preaching that’s really not the way to go.” Elaine Daley, a telephone operator at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, weighed 322 pounds 15 years ago. “I was walking down the street and I passed out,” says Daley. “I was taken to the emergency room and they diagnosed me with type 2 diabetes. It was a real wake up call.” Since then Daley has shed about 180 pounds using a commercial diet plan. “I was at the crossroads. They asked me why I wanted to lose the weight. If it was for a special event or to fit into a dress, I couldn’t have done it. I had to want to do it for myself,” says Daley. “It wasn’t easy. It took me a good two years and it was a


real struggle, but I did it.” She says the structured meals and especially the counseling were invaluable in keeping her on track. Today she eats sensibly, takes long regular walks, and drinks lots of water. Working in a hospital can challenge someone trying to eat well, says Daley. “For a lot of us it’s our schedules. We work two or three different shifts,” she says. “And also the cafeterias — we have fried chicken and cheeseburgers. The soups are so salty. If they started to stress nutrition people would start eating better. They need to start offering better things right here.” The NBF offers eligible members free help in reaching their health and fitness goals. There are programs to help members lose weight, quit smoking, or manage chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension. There are Worksite Wellness Clinics, health fairs, nutrition and fitness workshops, workshops about specific health issues and topics, one-on-one health coaches and a 24-hour-a-day Nurse Helpline. Lila Serrante, a delegate at Cooperative Homecare in the Bronx, encourages her co-workers not to ignore symptoms. In February 2005, Serrante severely damaged discs in her spine while lifting a patient. She went to work the following day even though she was in pain. She couldn’t walk the next day, so she went to the emergency room. She was out of work for five months. “They thought I had a stroke because I couldn’t feel my hip,” she says. “We go to work because we’re worried about the economy. We worry that if we stay home we won’t get paid, so we take a Tylenol and a cup of tea, and go to work.” “We only think about work, work, work, and money, money money,” she says. “But money is nothing if you don’t have your health.” ctually money is something when it comes to members’ health. A recent study estimated that the overall decline in health of the U.S. workforce associated with unhealthy behaviors like overeating and smoking costs employers $670 per year per employee. And as healthcare costs climb, workers are seeing less money in their pockets. For those with contractually negotiated health coverage like NBF members, employers have to contribute more just to maintain benefits, so wage increases are smaller or there are none at all. Other members, like those in different group plans with co-payments, are paying more and more for expensive treatments and hospitalizations for preventable conditions like hypertension and diabetes. “When someone’s not healthy it’s a lot of maintenance for you and your physician. It’s expensive,” says Daley. “When I was heavy I’d get letters in the mail telling me that they were concerned about my blood levels and I needed to come in and see them all the time. Now I don’t get them as much. I know I need to be vigilant about what I do because of my diabetes. My grandmother lost a leg and my sister passed away from the disease.”


Elaine Daley, a telephone operator at New York City’s Mount Sinai Medical Center.

May/June • Our Life And Times


Boston Medical Center Patient Access Representative Leslie Stafford.

Suggestions for a More Healthful Life Our Life And Times asked members for their suggestions on living more healthfully. Here are their submissions.

When you reach a certain age your limbs can have pain. I do yoga. I also do other exercise at my senior center. I run. I dance. And I walk. Elsie Reid, Retiree, Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Center, New York, NY I walk a lot. I live eight blocks from the subway and have access to a bus, but I always walk, whether it’s hot or cold. I walk very briskly. I just can’t walk slowly. Sylvia Williams, Retiree, Roosevelt Hospital, New York, NY I don’t take any drugs. Pain drugs might affect my other organs and I’ll wind up with another problem, so I just do my stretches and take supplements like fish oil and calcium. Sometimes drugs can make your life more complicated. Florence Simon, Retiree, Interfaith Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY Eat your vegetables, your fruits and drink a lot of water. Apart from that, love yourself and other people and thank God for your life. Mavis Williams, Retiree, Cliffside NH, Flushing, NY At my hospital there’s a gym the doctors help set up. I work out there 2-3 times a week in addition to my own gym membership. It helps when I’m working extra hours and I want to fit in a workout. Lynne Muchinsky, Lab/Anesthesia Tech, Hospital for Joint Diseases, New York, NY

eslie Stafford, a patient access representative at Boston Medical Center, decided something needed to change when she saw a photo of herself and realized she was carrying nearly 175 pounds on her 5-foot, 2-inch frame. She’s lost 18 pounds in two years and has gone from a size 14 to a size 8 by consistently exercising and overhauling her diet. Stafford doesn’t smoke or drink alcohol. She limits sugar and meat. And she values mutual support in getting and staying healthier and slimmer. “I invite everyone aboard the ship with me,” she says. “People know that I’m a power walker, so I ask them to come with me. If I’m going to go on a diet for a while, a co-worker and I will do it together. It’s fun and not only do others rely on you, you know that someone will be there helping you out. I have a saying: teamwork makes the dream work.” It’s definitely not been easy, says Stafford, but she’s seen benefits in every area of her life. “It’s given me a clearer thinking process. I’m less forgetful. I don’t worry about what anyone’s thinking of me or how I look or what I’m saying,” she says. “We work in hospitals and those are some of the toughest jobs around,” she adds “I’m the first person people see when they come in and the last person they see when they leave. And I go home at night knowing I have done my very best.” For more information about the National Benefit Fund’s Health Coaches and 24-Hour a Day Nurse Helpline as well its other wellness programs, log onto



May/June • Our Life And Times

I watch what I eat, but I also watch how much. Instead of eating a whole, I eat half. Doing that I’ve lost about 18 pounds. Michael Mays, Richmond University Medical Center, Staten Island, NY

“I invite everyone aboard the ship with me. I have a saying: teamwork makes the dream work.” —Leslie Stafford

I drink a protein shake every morning and take a women’s ultra mega vitamin to help keep me going. I also run or walk three times a week. Patricia Costello, RN, Boston Medical Center, Boston, MA We should aim for 10,000 steps per day — approximately five miles — and wear a pedometer. Alberta Morgan, Community Health Worker, Harlem Health Promotion Center, New York, NY I exercise at least four times a week for one hour. I also went from regular milk to soy milk and drinking protein shakes. I also changed the meats I eat to things like salmon and turkey burgers. John Fox, Retiree, Staten Island University Hospital, Staten Island, NY Have an appointment with yourself every day. You can make time for other people, but you have to set aside some time for yourself. Leslie Stafford, Patient Access Representative, Boston Medical Center, Boston, MA


assachusetts 1199SEIU’s annual Advocacy Day brought hundreds of members and their allies to a rally and a day of lobbying May 11 at the statehouse in Boston. Members made the trip to press for a voice in upcoming payment reform legislation that will affect many 1199ers at their worksites. 1199ers say it’s important for the final version of payment reform legislation to include workforce training and other job security measures for workers whose roles in the hospital could change as a result of payment reform. Members are also seeking increased Medicaid reimbursement rates to prevent the “cost-shifting” pattern that occurs when insufficient government reimbursements drive up private insurance prices. Other issues members discussed May 11 with legislators included: • Maintaining full funding for the personal care attendant (PCA) program. • Supporting the “Senior Care Options (SCO) Improvement Act,” which would increase enrollment for seniors in the SCO program; would help reduce hospitalizations and nursing home admissions; and would give SCO PCAs the right to join 1199SEIU. • Supporting nursing home “user-fee reform,” which would direct funding to nursing homes which respect the voices of their employees and which are engaged in joint labor-management work to improve quality care. “I’m here to support health care, the PCA voice, and consumers. I'm here to unite and voice our opinion,” said Janet Patterson, a Boston PCA, at the May 11 event.


efore heading to the statehouse, members from hospitals, nursing homes and homecare agencies met at the union hall in Dorchester with Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick for a roundtable discussion that included 1199SEIU Pres. George Gresham. The rally at the Grand Staircase inside the Statehouse was addressed by Mass. Division Exec. VP Veronica Turner and a host of state senators and representatives. 1199SEIU members also launched the Voices of Quality Care initiative in April. Its aim is to ensure that healthcare workers have a voice throughout the budget process and that hospital reimbursements are fair, that workers are retrained as their jobs change and that Union members work collaboratively with management in their facilities. Massachusetts’ fiscal year begins on July 1, so the budget must be finalized and passed by June 30.


Scores of PCAs were among the hundreds of Massachusetts members that participated in May 11 Advocacy Day at the state house in Boston.

Bay State Members Rally for

PAYMENT REFORM They advocate for quality care and quality jobs.

NJ 1199ers and Consumers Unite for Quality Care

NJ 1199ers and healthcare advocates at Trenton War Memorial May 12 rally against Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed nursing homes budget cuts.

New Jersey 1199SEIU members, nursing home owners, and members of advocacy organizations came together May 12 for a “United for Quality Care Advocacy Day” at the Trenton War Memorial in the state capital. Their target was Gov. Chris Christie’s 2011-12 drastic budget proposal that would cut $140 million in funding for nursing homes. “We are not here for ourselves, we are here for

our residents because they can’t fight for themselves, said Patricia Mathews, a CNA at Forest Hills Healthcare Center in Newark. “They are our friends and our family and they deserve to spend their last days with dignity. I am here to tell our elected officials that it is their responsibility to protect New Jersey’s senior citizens and stop the budget cuts to nursing homes.” Among the participants at the rally were members of

the NJ chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). “I can’t remember a time when I addressed a group that was so enthusiastic, so involved and so ready to fight for the things they believe in,” said AARP chapter president Sy Larson, referring to the rally participants. Leaders of the NJ Senate pledged support and vowed to fight to restore the cuts. New Jersey’s fiscal year begins July 1.

May/June • Our Life And Times



We Are Family! Members rally to support Pocono workers. It was the largest demonstration in the history of East Stroudsburg, PA. That’s because 80 busloads of 1199SEIU members, mostly from New York City, but from as far south as Baltimore and as far north as Syracuse, made the trip May 14 to support the 550 union members at Pocono Medical Center (PMC). The PMC workers — nursing assistants, environmental and food service workers, lab workers, clerical employees and skilled maintenance workers — are members of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania and have been working without a contract for seven months. Members voted late last year to maintain a union shop, which would require all members in the bargaining unit to become dues-paying members as a requirement of their employment. Management insists on an open shop, which amounts to a backdoor attempt to weaken and eventually dissolve the union. “I believe that hospital workers are some of the hardest workers you’ll find. I know what it’s like to work hard and I want to support people who are fighting for good jobs, good insurance and a good union,” said Keisha Murphy, a CNA at Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan who made the bus trip from Manhattan. In addition to those who came by bus,

many of the 1199ers, some 4,000 strong, also came in vans and cars. Many brought family members, with some pushing toddlers in carriages. Scores of retirees participated, some with the help of walkers and canes. “We didn’t come to the Poconos to honeymoon or ski,” 1199SEIU Pres. George Gresham said at the rally. “The labor movement has awakened. And this is just a sample of what we can do.” Gresham vowed to return with many more members until justice is done. “We are drawing a line in the sand and saying, ‘No, you can’t have any more. We want to share in some of the wealth we are helping to create,’” said SEIU Pres. Mary Kay Henry. Speaking on behalf of PMC workers, Kathy Walls, a patient facilitator, said PMC workers were overwhelmed by the show of support, adding, “We are determined to make working at PMC the kind of family-supporting jobs our community needs.” Neal Bisno, president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, chaired the rally and introduced actor-activist Danny Glover as “our own Lethal Weapon,” a reference to Glover’s films with Mel Gibson. And Glover himself made reference to another one of his films, “The

Thousands of 1199ers marched in East Stroudsburg, PA on May 14 in support of workers fighting for a fair contract at Pocono Medical Center. It was the largest demonstration in the region’s history.


May/June • Our Life And Times

Color Purple.” “I haven’t seen this much purple since ‘The Color Purple,’” he said. “We are sick and tired of being sick and tired,” he thundered, quoting the late civil rights hero Fannie Lou Hamer. “We all know that unions are the best anti-poverty program in the country.” A parade of other speakers took the stage to pledge support. They included local elected officials and union leaders, Dr. L. Toni Lewis, chair of SEIU Healthcare; Dian Palmer, president of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin; Bill Lucy, president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists; and Henry Nicholas, president of 1199C, AFSCME in Pennsylvania. “It’s Gonna Be a Lovely Day” was among the numbers performed by the rhythm and blues band GQ while rally participants gathered. And although clouds hung overhead for most of the rally and march, there was very little rain. “It was a wonderful, beautiful day” said Retiree Division Exec. VP Gwendolyn Dennis, one of the 200 or so retirees who made the trip. “I am so happy to be able to give back for all the benefits I’ve received from our Union. Why can’t all workers have those benefits?”


A Look at Hospital Corporation of America and 1199SEIU Members Florida members score major breakthrough.

Members of HCA statewide bargaining team April 18 in Boca Raton. Take a drive through Florida and it won’t take long before you pass one of 38 Hospital Corporation of America (HCA)affiliated hospitals. Founded in 1968 by the Frist family in Nashville, Tennessee, HCA, the largest for-profit hospital company in the world, primarily focused its business operations on the southern U.S. As one of the first investorowned hospital companies in the nation, HCA blazed a path for future businesses that turn a profit

from privatizing publicly run services like prisons, welfare and child support enforcement. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), like HCA, was also founded in Nashville with the same initial investor, Jack Massey. Today CCA is the largest operator of private for-profit prisons in the world. In the last 30 years no southern state has been more influenced by HCA’s for-profit pioneering than Florida. Today Florida is home to the largest number of HCAaffiliated hospitals in the nation

Member Testifies About Value of a Union Jeanne Taylor (shown at left), a cook at Oak Hill and a registered Republican, was so moved by her experience in Tallahassee that she traveled again the following week to testify at a hearing about SB 830, the anti-union bill that would have eliminated payroll dues deduction from public sector union members. Following are excerpts of her testimony:

with Texas trailing with 36. Florida Gov. Rick Scott was the former head of Columbia/HCA (its former name) and founder of Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, the largest-membership lobbying group against healthcare reform. Given HCA’s history and influence, organizing HCAaffiliated hospitals is no small feat. In Florida, the first HCA-affiliated hospital to form a union was Cedars Medical Center near downtown Miami. As a facility that

catered to Miami’s wealthy community, the hospital offered private rooms only to its upper-class patients, yet paid less than average wages to its service employees. “Our first contract took 18 months to achieve and we stuck it through, we got a great contract, and we passed it on,” says Michelle Fowler, a respiratory technologist at University of Miami Hospital, formerly Cedars. When six more HCA-affiliated hospitals organized and workers started negotiating their new

As a lifelong Republican, I do not see what rationale is used to support this bill. Republicans believe in limited government, individual freedom, strong families and efficiency. This bill goes against those very principles. This bill impedes our ability to support the Union, which we see as vital to protecting our rights as workers. Personally, I am scared that if this bill were to be passed, it would undermine all I have fought for to defend workers’ rights. At Oak Hill Hospital, it is my job to ensure our patients get the food and nutrients they need. While our hospital does not have a contract yet, I have seen the positive difference the Union makes in people’s lives by sitting at bargaining tables with our management leaders. Unions don’t only fight for better wages for all workers, they also help train us and improve the quality of care we provide our patients. Now, by creating an obstacle for its members to pay dues, this bill is threatening the life support of the Union. I want this legislature to realize that while this law may not affect me now since I belong to a private union, it undermines the ability of key sectors of our work force to unionize, and that in turn affects all of us.

May/June • Our Life And Times



Music Runs In the Family Singer-songwriter Mario Roseborough works at Baltimore’s Sinai Hospital. contracts, they soon realized that gaining a contract was going to take endurance, patience and more endurance. “It took at least two sessions to just reach agreement on ground rules,” says Leora Stirrat, a unit secretary at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton. Thirteen organized hospitals later, the difference is stark. As a result of their growth, members have had more influence and flexibility than they had before when negotiating with management, helping to empower them and make it easier to improve their lives and working conditions. The first bargaining session on April 5 began with a show of unity. Bargaining team members welcomed their employer by standing up and saying in unison, “We Are 1199SEIU.” Then the members introduced themselves by giving their names, hospital and the number of years of experience in the healthcare field. The first round of negotiations resulted in two tentative agreements and ground rules were agreed upon within hours. Consequently, bargaining team members walked away from their first negotiation session motivated and confident. “I think it made a difference to have a room full of healthcare workers showing their unity,’” said Nadine White, a Labor and Delivery Nurse at Plantation Hospital in Plantation. “I enjoy coming to negotiations and I love hearing the other stories because a lot of us did not know that we were all dealing with the same issues. Now we know we are standing together. We are not alone.” Through a commitment to principles, relentless spirit and effectiveness in negotiating with management, members are scoring historic and impressive victories for members that now include exchanging 40 proposals and reaching 10 tentative agreements since the first bargaining session. So how exactly have HCA members been able to make such progress in such little time? The answer partially lies in the principles they employ when bargaining with management: 1. One strategy. One team. One purpose. 2. Create strength in membership. 3. Respect, inspire and support each other.

4. Support proposals with evidence based data collected through information requests, research, and by members in the worksites. 5. Coordinate communication (regular, cross facility and state, members’ surveys). 6. Build on our foundation — keep what works, upgrade where needed, and create what’s needed. 7. Make decisions as a team. 8. Coordinate and share information with National Nurses Union & SEIU Locals bargaining with HCA affiliates in other states. The members stress that their victory is a win for their patients and communities. Bargaining team members, many of whom voted for their Union just months ago, are finding their voices at the table. During negotiations, members testify to management to give first hand accounts about why the proposals they are submitting are important. For example, when the team presented a proposal on nondiscrimination language that includes nation of origin, Bannellys Velasquez, a CNA at Community Hospital in Brooksville said: “When I worked at a different HCA-affiliated hospital, I was clocked out for lunch and I was speaking to my mother on the phone in Spanish. A co-worker told me I was not allowed to speak Spanish. So, I went to HR and was told once again I was not allowed, even though I was often asked to translate for patients.” Not only are members finding their voices in negotiations, they are taking part, many for the first time, in the political process. On April 7, hundreds of 1199SEIU Florida members traveled to Tallahassee to participate in a statewide mobilization to call for the termination of Gov. Rick Scott. The 500 “Pink Slip Rick” protestors converged inside the capitol rotunda to deliver pink slips to the Governor’s office while singing “This Land is Your Land,” and chanting “Where are the jobs?” “Pink Slip Rick!” and “This is what democracy looks like!” The bargaining process is opening more than doors for future healthcare workers, it is opening minds. Oak Hill cook Jeanne Taylor sums it up when she says, “It makes me feel like I have a voice in my own future. I love it.”

“I come from a big family of musicians,” says Mario Roseborough, a materials specialist technician at Baltimore’s Sinai Hospital. “Both of my parents play instruments and my father is a member of Unique – they sing a lot of ‘70s soul music and do a lot of shows with groups like the Whispers and the Stylistics. My cousin is a music teacher at the Baltimore School of the Arts.” So it’s no surprise that Roseborough, now 23, took up the family profession at the tender age of 16 and began performing with a group of his own. “Singing to me was just something I thought everyone did because I grew up in such a musical household,” he says. Today Roseborough is a solo performer as well as a songwriter who composes for other artists. His work is inspired by real-life experiences, he says, and he strives for authentic connection with his audience. “A lot of times it’s the feeling behind the music,” he says. “It’s one thing to be able to sing a song and another to be able to put feeling into it. When an individual hears my music and tells me they like it, it gives me inspiration to continue to write more.” But performing is Roseborough’s true love. “I just love the reaction of the crowd and the energy,” he says. “One thing about Baltimore is that you have to be good because if you’re not they will let you know. If you bring them a certain level of energy they will give it back to you.” Roseborough is in the process of making his first video for his single “Overwhelmed,” as well as putting the finishing touches on his first CD of original music, which is due out this summer. The album will be available on iTunes.

Mario Roseborough



May/June • Our Life And Times


Distinguished Service

Since She Found the Union

Joe Macagnone, a mental health assistant at Columbia Memorial Hospital in Hudson, NY.

“In my town when I was growing up, everyone knew that workers had no rights without unions. And that thought has stayed with me.” —PCA Carlita Martinez Carlita Martinez is a Personal Care Attendant in Methuen, MA. oe Macagnone has been an 1199SEIU delegate for just a few months, but he’s been a labor leader for much of his adult life. Before landing a job three years ago as a mental health assistant at Columbia Memorial Hospital (CMH) in Hudson, NY, Macagnone was a member of the Teamsters Union for some 20 years. “I was a shop steward as a Teamster, too, and I learned a lot there, but that was a different time in my life and I’ve left that behind,” he says. Because of his leadership qualities, he was urged to become a delegate by his Columbia Memorial co-workers. It paid off in May when members at CMH negotiated a five-year contract after an almost five-month struggle. Macagnone was one of the leaders of the negotiating committee and one of its most outspoken members. Says 1199SEIU VP Rosa Lomuscio: “Joe is a leader in every sense of the word. As a member of the Union’s bargaining team during a very difficult struggle, Joe not only relayed the details of negotiations to the membership, but he listened carefully to what they had to say and brought their concerns to the table. His dedication and commitment to his patients, his community and his Union is outstanding.” On June 4, Macagnone was scheduled to be among the CMH members accepting the Distinguished Service Award by the Columbia County Democratic Committee. The award was to be presented to the caregivers “in recognition of their stellar work in the community and their fight for union members everywhere.” Macagnone thinks the award is significant. “With our families, we make important contributions to the region,” he says. “I’m proud of our work and I’m proud to be a member of 1199SEIU.”


hen Carlita Martinez became a Personal Care Attendant (PCA) in 2008 she recognized that there was still a void in her work life. “I wasn’t a member of a union,” she says. “I had problems with my agency, but I didn’t know how to correct it.” Martinez, who was born in San Pedro de Marcoris in the Dominican Republic and had been a caregiver her entire life, had become a PCA in Methuen, MA, first to care for an ailing aunt and later, her father. “I was looking for a union and I found 1199SEIU through another PCA, Vincente de la Rosa from Lawrence.” That meeting changed Martinez’s life. She not only joined 1199SEIU, but she immediately became one of the most active, enthusiastic builders of the Union and a strong advocate for PCAs. “In my town when I was growing up, everyone knew that workers had no rights without unions,” she says. “And that thought has stayed with me.” Martinez has canvassed other PCAs to join the Union and has immersed herself in political activities. She has lobbied legislators and appeared in the media on behalf of PCA funding and legislation. “Carlita Martinez is a model delegate,” says 1199SEIU VP Rebecca Gutman. “She takes a leadership role in building the Union and her community. Her PAC sign-up rate in terms of numbers and amount contributed surpasses many in our Union. Carlita understands and educates other PCAs about the connection between our lives at work, our lives at home, and the importance of being politically active.” “We PCAs need a lot of things like better benefits and higher salaries,” Martinez says. “We always want to do more for our clients, too. To do that, we need to build strength and that means building our Union.”


May/June • Our Life And Times


➽ Contracts ➽ Syracuse Rally ➽ May Day

Around the Union Contract Victories Across Our Regions Here’s a roundup of some recently settled contracts from around our regions: Members at Columbia Memorial Hospital in Hudson, NY, ratified a five-year agreement covering 600 service, technical and professional workers May 19 after several months of arduous negotiations. Workers were able to maintain most of what they had won in past collective bargaining agreements. They protected their pensions and most importantly pushed back one of the employer’s main goals — winning an open shop at Columbia. Workers at Blossom Nursing Home in Rochester, NY, overwhelm-

ingly ratified a new, three-year agreement on April 5. The pact includes increased pension contributions, wage increases of 4.5% and improved job security language. “Watching the news on the state budget and so many people losing their jobs every day, I’m happy to know we actually have job security,” says Michelle Payne, a Blossom CNA and negotiating committee member. At Palm Garden in Port St. Lucie, FL, on April 29 workers ratified a contract covering 84 members. And at Palm Terrace in Clewiston, FL, workers ratified their contract May 11. The agreement covers a bargaining unit of 96 members. At the Weinberg Campus in Getzville, NY, near Buffalo, 300 members ratified a new three-year pact May 18. And in Syracuse, NY,

New Yorkers March Hundreds Rally in On May Day Syracuse for Community General A large contingent of 1199ers was among the tens of thousands who marched in New York City on May Day to demand economic justice, the creation of good jobs, the fair treatment of immigrants, and an end to the right-wing’s effort to crush organized labor. “I thought I’d be retired by now, but I’m worried,” said marcher Elise Rackmill, a social worker at Manhattan’s St. Luke’s Hospital. “I’m worried for my kids and my grandchildren. Even with a college education there’s no guaranteed future for them, no job security. It’s just a terrible situation.” The march and rally, which began at Manhattan’s Union Square and ended in Foley Square, were cosponsored by the May 1st and Labor Rights, Immigrant Rights and Jobs For All Coalitions. They drew large contingents from labor unions, faith-based organizations and community, progressive and cultural groups. Numerous union rank-andfilers, immigrant rights advocates, and labor union officials spoke at the Foley Square rally, including SEIU Sec. Treas. Eliseo Medina and 1199SEIU Sec. Treas. Maria Castaneda. Medina told those at the rally that they must stay in the fight for justice for immigrants and all working people. “Our Union is here today to stand with all other unions and community groups,” said Castaneda. “We cannot allow ourselves to be scapegoated in this economic crisis.”

Thousands marched on May Day in New York City, calling for immigration reform, job creation and economic justice.


May/June • Our Life And Times

Some 500 members and their supporters gathered in downtown Syracuse’s Forman Park May 5 in a show of solidarity with 900 Community General Hospital workers whose pensions and benefits are at risk if their institution is taken over by SUNY Upstate Medical University. SUNY Upstate has proposed purchasing Community General. The move would make 1199SEIUrepresented workers public employees, which would seriously affect their accrued seniority, vacation, pension and other benefits.

May 19 workers at Crouse Hospital and Community General Hospital ratified new contracts. The Crouse agreement covers some 2,000 workers. At Community General at press time, workers were in a struggle to protect their benefits and pensions during a takeover bid by SUNY Upstate Medical Center. (For more on this, see story below.) At Maryland’s Dimensions Health Systems — which includes Prince Georges Hospital Center, Laurel Regional Hospital, the Bowie Health Campus and the Gladys Spellman and Larkin Chase Rehabilitation Centers — workers settled two new agreements March 30. One covers 613 registered nurses and the other covers 634 service, maintenance and technical workers. The contracts provide wage increases for the first time since 2008. Registered nurses won

staffing ratios. And service, maintenance and technical workers will for the first time be covered under the 1199SEIU Training and Upgrading Fund. Dimensions is a financially stressed institution which has been working on becoming stable and getting funding from Prince Georges County and the state of Maryland. Negotiating committee member Imogene Hall, an environmental service worker at Prince Georges Hospital Center for 41 years, says the agreement was good for the whole institution: “When we have a good, strong contract it really helps everybody,” she says. “It’s good for our patients because if we don’t have our rights, how can we possibly take care of them?” Workers at Summit Park Nursing Home in Catonsville, MD, settled a new contract May 11.

“Their original plan said they could ill-afford to bring us all on with the seniority and all the benefits that we had,” says Community General dietary worker Dwayne Stafford, a negotiating committee member. “It was a slap in the face to people who had devoted their lives to this place.” SUNY Upstate initially had Community General workers starting from scratch — meaning workers with as many as 45 years of service would lose everything they’d accrued. The administration has since revised that, but even under the new plan, workers still lose a lot, says Stafford. Representatives from numerous community and faith-based organizations joined the rally as well as contingents from several other labor unions, including the United Federa-

tion of Teachers and the New York State Public Employees Federation. “It meant a lot to me and gave me a lot of pride. Before then, people were pessimistic, but when we got out there and heard the people in the community talking about our hospital it gave us energy,” says Stafford. 1199SEIU Pres. George Gresham vowed to hold accountable all employers who would blatantly disregard their responsibilities to workers. “The rich continue to feed off the needs of working people,” said Gresham at the rally. “We are no longer here to settle for the crumbs when we are the ones making the bread.” At press time Community General’s plan of sale was before NYS Dept. of Health officials.


1199SEIU Celebrated National Nurses Month in May This month’s “Work We Do” features RNs at Orange Regional Medical Center in Middletown, NY. Here float nurse Michelle Dymond holds Vivienne Louise Sharp, who was born at the hospital May 13. See pages 6 and 7.

To re 1199S ad more abo and co E I U’s organ ut i n develo tract victoriezing pment s an all reg s througho d ut io Union, ns of our www.1 log onto 199sei

Our Life & Times  

Our Life & Times We're Fighting Back May / June 2011

Our Life & Times  

Our Life & Times We're Fighting Back May / June 2011