Page 1

A JOURNAL OF 1199SEIU August/September 2012

DEFENDING HEALTH CARE IN NOVEMBER The work of 1199ers like Judy Jones, a Cape Cod phlebotomist, could be greatly affected by the results of the Nov. 6 election. See “The Work We Do” on page 8.


Contents 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 14

LABOR’S TASK IN 2012 There is no more important mission than re-electing President Obama. PRESIDENT’S COLUMN Time to step up. THE FIGHT FOR CONGRESS We can make the difference in several critical races. THE GOP WAR ON WOMEN Members speak out about the right wing’s national crusade. THE WORK WE DO Cape Cod Healthcare’s clinics represent the new direction of health care. OUR DELEGATE LEADERS New Jersey’s Halina Kulesza and Maryland’s Alyssha Jacobs. THE SEIU CONVENTION Members were fired up and united to lead the fight for the 99%. STOP AND FRISK Father’s Day march against NYPD’s brutal tactics draws tens of thousands. AROUND THE UNION Maryland nurses win at Civista Medical Center; historic contract at University of Miami; NJ members step up.

p.8

Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital pharmacy tech Nate Crowningshield.

p.11

p.11 Our Life And Times, August/September 2012, Vol 30, No 4 Published by 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East 310 West 43rd St. New York, NY 10036 Telephone (212) 582-1890 www.1199seiu.org

p.14 E DITOR : J.J. Johnson STAFF WRITE R : Patricia Kenney DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY:

Jim Tynan PHOTOG RAPH E R : Belinda Gallegos ART DI RECTION & DES IG N :

Maiarelli Studio PRES I DE NT :

COVE R PHOTOG RAPH :

George Gresham

Jim Tynan

S EC RETARY TREASURE R :

Maria Castaneda EXEC UTIVE VIC E PRES I DE NTS :

Norma Amsterdam Yvonne Armstrong Lisa Brown Angela Doyle George Kennedy Steve Kramer Patrick Lindsay Joyce Neil John Reid Bruce Richard Mike Rifkin Monica Russo 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.

www.1199seiu.org


EDITORIAL

A VOTE FOR OUR FUTURE

Elections are more than civic exercises.

T

here are those who argue that voting in local and national elections makes little difference in their lives. Admittedly, in some elections the difference between opposing candidates is not very stark. Not so in this year’s presidential election. The stakes have rarely been higher. In fact, this year’s elections provide Americans with an opportunity to not only move our country forward, but also to help define the role of government. From now until Nov. 6, our work will focus on supporting and helping to elect candidates that believe government has a responsibility to those it governs. Four years ago, Wall Street crimes brought our country to the brink of economic collapse. The bankers and financiers who created the financial crisis caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs, their public services, their homes and their retirement security. And those responsible for the crises are also responsible for stalling the recovery. It is not surprising that the anger and frustration of voters caused many of them to put their trust in Tea Partiers and other extreme Republicans. That made it possible for the extremists to capture many state legislatures and executive offices in the 2010 elections.

B

ut under the guise of taking back our country, they have taken us backwards. Their recipe for recovery is to force working and poor people to pay for the corporate crimes. Wisconsin is among the most extreme examples. Mitt Romney made it abundantly clear that he owes his allegiance to the ultra-rich by choosing extremist Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan produced a budget last March that would cut $3.3 trillion from low-income programs over the next decade. Some 62 percent of the budget cuts proposed by Ryan would come from low-income programs. The biggest cuts would come from Medicaid, which funds a large percentage of our institutions. Ryan also supports privatizing Social Security, raising the

3

August/September • Our Life And Times

retirement age and turning Medicare into a voucher program, which would make it difficult or impossible for seniors to purchase health insurance. His proposals also are anti-labor, anti-public education and anti-social services. He is against a woman’s right to choose and opposes abortion even in cases of incest or rape. Though he claims to be a fiscal conservative, his proposals would not help to balance the budget. In fact, they essentially would result in a massive redistribution of wealth to Wall Street, the banks and the arms industry while raising taxes on middle-income and working people.

T

he one percent were handed another major victory with the Supreme Court’s 2010 “Citizens United” decision, which loosened all restrictions on independent political expenditures. The decision has led to the emergence of Super-PACs, political action committees that can raise as much money from corporations as they please and spend unlimited amounts on advocating for the election or defeat of candidates. For example, Texan Harold

Simmons, who has made billions dumping and then cleaning up toxic waste, told the Wall Street Journal in the spring that he will contribute $36 million to rightwing Super-PACs. In June, Las Vegas magnate Sheldon Adelson, Forbes magazine eighth richest man in the U.S., donated $10 million to the pro-Romney Super-PAC Restore Our Future. He, too, boasts that he is ready to donate millions more.

1199ers have taken to the streets in 2012, including May 1 in New York City.

B

ut developments in 2011 give us reason for optimism. Workers and their allies in states across the country fought back against the austerity and cuts. Led by the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, we shined a spotlight on the wealthiest one percent responsible for the economic inequality and social injustices. And while we’ve fought in our workplaces and communities, we’ve also fought in the halls of local and federal government. This issue of Our Life And Times introduces us to 1199ers who discuss their major concerns and their preparations for the elections. The centerpiece of their work is the re-election of President Barack Obama.

Under the guise of taking back our country, they have taken us backwards.


THE PRESIDENT’S COLUMN George Gresham

A Time to Step Up Why we can’t lose the White House and Congress. With kids on school breaks, families on vacation, and sweltering heat waves, it is understandable that many 1199ers may not have been paying close attention to the Presidential and Congressional campaigns now underway. But with Labor Day come and gone, and only eight weeks to Election Day, if you are not focused on what this election means, you could be shortchanging yourself and endangering your family. Imagine this: • You no longer have collective bargaining rights, which means you no longer can expect your current wages (and future increases), healthcare benefits, pensions, rights on the job, vacations and sick leave. • You no longer have employer contributions to healthcare coverage, and Medicare and Medicaid are stripped to the bone, if not eliminated altogether. (This will, of course, result in the closing of thousands of hospitals and nursing homes, disastrous patient care and the loss of millions of healthcare jobs.) • The retirement age to receive Social Security is raised to 70, and no longer are you guaranteed a monthly Social Security check as the system is privatized and contingent on the unpredictable stock market. • Women’s reproductive rights are outlawed. • Your federal taxes are raised while taxes on the very rich and on corporations are cut and in some cases eliminated. This results in deep cuts to your state and local governments, which in turn means many fewer teachers, firefighters, sanitation and environmental protection workers, police and other government employees. • Voting rights for minorities and young people are severely restricted. If you are Black, Brown or foreign-born, you will be forced further to the margins and shadows of society. • Federal aid to education—including student aid and loans—is eliminated. • Who you are allowed to marry, whether you are allowed to use birth control, and other intimate personal issues are dictated by the government. Welcome to the Romney-Ryan White House and the Republican-controlled Congress. It is always risky to take these guys at their word, but this is what they promise America will look like after one year in office. They believe the role of the federal government is to transfer public holdings into private hands, and the wealth produced by the 99 Percent into the hands of the One Percent. But here’s the good news: It doesn’t have to be that way. We are confident that we can beat them. They may have untold billions of dollars but there are many more of us than there are of them. But if the One Percent is determined to win—and you better believe that they are—then we’ve got to be even more determined. The media like to report election campaigns as spectator sports but this has to be audience participation. Simply sitting in the stands is a form of forfeiting the game. If you aren’t registered to vote, then register and make sure your family, friends and co-workers also are registered. If you aren’t contributing to our Union’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Political Action Fund that allows us to be the important political force we’ve become, then please talk to your Delegate or Organizer and sign up to contribute. If you can become a “Weekend Warrior”—members who volunteer to go to neighboring “battleground” states like Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Florida to register and educate voters—again please ask your Delegate or Organizer how to sign up. We need you. If you’re unable to travel, but can give some time for phonebanking, we will have call lists of potential voters in the battleground states for you to call to help Get Out the Vote. This is the time to step up. A year from now will be too late for buyer’s remorse if Romney, Ryan and the One Percent take the White House and Congress.

Letters UNION SLEUTH am a hospital worker in Brooklyn and a Union steward with 1199SEIU. When I want to read a good book, I look for a story that tells about ordinary working people in an honest way. We are the ones who care for the patients and deliver the supplies and clean the facility. I want to see us portrayed as working with dignity and good humor. Tim Sheard’s new crime novel, “No Place To Be Sick,” does that and more. The story is about a nasty psycho who is killing patients in the hospital, only nobody knows he’s doing it. Then a few nurses get suspicious. But the bosses don’t listen to them. They even say they’ll fire the nurses if they talk about the suspicious deaths. So the nurses turn to Lenny Moss, a steward in a union very much like 1199SEIU. At first Lenny doesn’t want to help. He’s burned out from his last murder case. So the women take on the investigation on their own. Eventually Lenny joins the struggle, along with many other workers. They work together, black and white, men and women, and try to stop the killing. But the best part of the book might be the threat from a greedy rich guy who wants to buy the nonprofit hospital and turn it into a forprofit business. The new boss wants to decertify the union and run a non-union shop. He is more interested in profits for himself than the health of the patients or the job security of the workers. I strongly recommend all of Sheard’s books, but if you want to start out with a really exciting story told from the point of view of ordinary hospital workers, get a copy of Tim’s latest Lenny Moss mystery, “No Place To Be Sick” (Hard Ball Press, $15)

I

KURT A. RAUCEO Methodist Hospital, Brooklyn, NY

A NOTE OF THANKS y mother, Muriel Wiesner, was a longtime 1199 member, delegate and negotiating committee member. She worked at the Far Rockaway LaGuardia Medical Center. I was also a member, having worked at LaGuardia’s Richmond Hills office for one year. I’m writing to thank the Union for all the work you continue to do, for the incredible gift the Union gave to my mother by tapping her leadership skills and for the pension check my ailing father still receives. Muriel died five years ago. My company focuses on peacemaking and social justice education. On our website, we remember the

M

1912 Bread and Roses strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts. My other reason for writing is to let you know that I’ve written a bit about my mother and her Union days on my company’s website, which includes links to the 1199SEIU site. I would be honored if the Union would let the members know about the story. The article about my mother can be found at http://www.reachandtouch.com/co ntent/article.php?story=muriel. I notice on your website the celebration of homecare workers who recently won a contract victory and healthcare funding. We would have been lost without the home health care my father received after my mother’s death. More and more people will need home health care, and I’m hopeful that those homecare workers will organize across the country so that they can receive a living wage and decent benefits. My best wishes to the entire 1199SEIU family, and all those whom you love and support. May the coming years bring new strength to organized labor and help us build the society we believe in. CRAIG L. WIESNER Daly City, CA

DECLINING INTEREST here is a good possibility that we will face a Republican White House and Congress next year and 1199SEIU needs to take note of this. Unions have been targeted for elimination by this party for their financial support for their opponents. In Wisconsin, over two-thirds of government workers gave up their union membership when automatic dues deductions were eliminated. This should serve as a warning to all unions of what might happen should membership become voluntary as in the case of a national right to work law. Unions need to think in terms of the quality of services they provide to their members. I am now retired, but in my 40 years of active membership, I encountered varying degrees of competence in organizers and persons answering the phone at the various departments of the Funds. Nothing turns people off to unions more than indifferent union officers and employees. I have personally witnessed a great decline of interest in union matters among members in my tenure and this trend needs to be halted if organized labor expects to survive.

T

DAVID H. FOX, retiree Einstein/Montefiore, Bronx, NY Let’s Hear From You Our Life And Times welcomes your letters. Please email them to jamesj@1199.org 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.

August/September • Our Life And Times

4


ELECTIONS

Members Prepare for November Work begins in battleground states.

F

rom Florida to New Hampshire, 1199ers are in motion. As usual, they will be deeply involved in this year’s electoral battle. At the top of the electoral agenda is the re-election of Pres. Barack Obama, but 1199ers will also be carrying literature, knocking on doors and calling voters about major Congressional races. At stake are the White House and both houses of Congress. Extremists in the House and Senate are determined to secure enough seats to block any progressive bill. Among the nation’s most important and widely watched races is the U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts. It pits Elizabeth Warren, co-founder of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, against incumbent Sen. Scott Brown. In the two years that he has been in office since winning a special election for the seat that was long held by late Sen. Ted Kennedy, Brown has voted on the side of working people just 19 percent of the time. Last year, he voted for a debt plan that would have slashed $1.8 trillion from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He also voted against extending unemployment benefits and for legislation to extend Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Warren, a longtime progressive, is a strong supporter of Social

5

August/September • Our Life And Times

Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and for healthcare reforms that will extend coverage while lowering costs. “I think Elizabeth Warren will be a better candidate than Scott Brown because she stands for working people and strengthening the middle class,” says Keila Price, an 1199SEIU administrative assistant at Boston Medical Center. She says that she is eager to begin knocking on doors for Warren. 1199ers will work in communities throughout Massachusetts, including those with historically low voter turnout, to get out the vote for Warren and other pro-worker candidates.

I

n July, 1199SEIU began working in the battleground state of Pennsylvania. Some 255 New York metropolitan region 1199ers signed up for the “Weekend Warriors” program during the first weekend mobilization to eastern Pennsylvania. That group was joined by 1199ers from the Maryland/DC region and members of SEIU’s 32BJ. Even more members made the trek to Philadelphia on the following weekend. And over those first two weeks, they contacted 4,000 voters. Forty 1199ers from Buffalo and Rochester also traveled to Erie, PA, on July 28 to help register new voters and inform voters of the change in

the voter ID law. Starting with the Nov. 6 election, voters will be required to show photo ID to vote in person, even if they’ve voted at the same site for years. The Pennsylvania law — as well as voter nullification laws in other states – is being challenged by the U.S. Justice Department. “I really felt like I made a difference here today,” said Bobby Brandon, an 1199 retiree from Kaleida Health in Buffalo. “This is how union members and working people win, by helping each other and putting in a little extra work.”

From left to right: SEIU Community Action member Jennifer Gibson, a resident of Springfield, MA.; Gibson’s son Malachi; 1199SEIU-endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate Elizabeth Warren; and 1199SEIU member Elia Alvarado, a personal care attendant from Lawrence, MA.

S

1199ers will work in communities throughout Massachusetts to get out the vote for Warren and other pro-worker candidates.

• Knocked on about 30,000 doors and spoken to about 10,000 neighbors to urge them to vote for candidates who will create good jobs, support the rights of workers and stand up for quality, affordable health care; • Signed up more than 200 new contributors to 1199’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Political Action Fund to amplify working people’s voices; • Recruited almost 400 members to

volunteer to phone bank, knock on doors, write letters and do whatever it takes to elect candidates who share their priorities as working people. 1199SEIU has also joined a coalition of voting rights organizations that have filed a suit accusing Florida of violating the federal Voting Rights Act by disproportionately targeting Latinos as part of the state’s attempt to purge its voting rolls of suspected non-citizens. The purge effort came against the backdrop of earlier moves by Gov. Rick Scott and other Republicans to cut back on early voting hours and crack down on voter-registration drives. Coalition members say that these measures are clearly aimed at lowering the participation of minorities and students who historically tend to vote Democratic. For more information about endorsed candidates and how you can participate in individual election campaigns, log onto www.1199seiu.org.

tarting on Labor Day, Weekend Warriors will ramp up efforts in Pennsylvania and other key battleground states by sending battalions every week. In addition to working in local campaigns, 1199ers in Massachusetts will travel to New Hampshire and Maryland/DC members will be on the move in Virginia. Even before the Weekend Warriors program began, 1199ers already were hard at work in the crucial battleground state of Florida, where 1199SEIU is becoming a major political force. Some 27 members of 1199SEIU have taken temporary paid leave from their jobs in nursing homes and hospitals to work full time. By the end of July, Florida members had:


OUR MEMBERS

The War On

WOMEN

Members speak out and fight back to halt the right-wing crusade against women’s rights and health care.

T

he right wing and its Tea Party Express are taking dead aim at women. A Republican lawmaker from Pennsylvania compared the starting day of the major women’s healthcare provisions under the Affordable Care Act to September 11. In Georgia, a GOP congressman sought to change the term from victims of rape or domestic violence to “accusers.” At least seven state legislatures — largely Republican-controlled — have during the last legislative cycle enacted laws that seriously affect women’s access to health services, with it being no surprise that mostly affected are poor and women of color. Marcia Ridgell, an RN at West Boca Medical center in Boca Raton, FL, is outraged. “These people can never have a child. Why are we

allowing them to dictate how we treat our bodies and how we live our lives?” Ridgell asks. “There were two Congresswomen who were shouted down in Michigan because they said the word vagina in their remarks to the Senate. That is unacceptable. I have been talking about it on my Facebook posts. This is all part of a war on women that has been going on for a long time. We’re 51% of this country and we are not taken seriously.” There’s plenty of evidence coming from state capitals and Capitol Hill to support Ridgell’s assertion. Aside from the blatant attacks on women’s health services and the right to choose, Tea Party and right-wing politicians espouse family values and job creation while promoting punitive austerity measures that destroy the jobs and programs most needed by women. Women for example, make up 2/3 of the adult recipients of

“These people can never have a child. Why are we allowing them to dictate how we treat our bodies and how we live our lives?” — Marcia Ridgell, RN at West Boca Medical center in Boca Raton, FL

August/September • Our Life And Times

6


Medicaid and are the primary recipients — and providers — of state-funded child care assistance. Those programs have seen drastic cuts as states and municipalities attempt to balance their budgets. Women are also disproportionately affected by cuts to public sector jobs, since they make up the majority of the public sector workforce. “I have an eight-year-old son, and the programs that were available to me don’t exist for him. My parents didn’t pay for afterschool. They don’t have music programs in the schools. I have to pay for sports, tutoring, music, and they’re closing the libraries,” says Boston Medical Center managed care representative Nadia Vilmont, a single mother.

V

ilmont, a delegate, has been active in voter registration efforts and canvassing throughout Boston and the nearby neighborhoods of Mattapan, Dorchester and Rochester, NH. “We are really trying to engage people at the doors and get them to open up and talk about what’s going on in our communities,” says Vilmont. “I thought there was going to be a lot of hesitation and people would slam the door in our faces, but it has not been that way. People are frustrated. I tell them that they need to call politicians and keep the pressure on them and make sure that they do the things they promise. They work for us.” “At first I was surprised at how much I had to

educate the women,” she also noted. “But then I thought about how much we do — raising families and working 80 hours a week — we might not have time to sit down and read something, so I have conversations with them.” Ridgell and Vilmont advocate for themselves and future generations of women. “I used to think of my rights as something that couldn’t be taken away, but I see now with these attacks on women how they’re making it legal to discriminate,” says Vilmont. “People like Scott Walker are setting the pace with what he’s doing in Wisconsin. They are trying to move us backwards.”

R

idgell, a relatively new activist who this spring lobbied in Tallahassee for the first time, uses social media as well as face-to-face conversations to communicate with her coworkers, neighbors and friends. “I know that there are women who are still going to go out there on Nov. 6 and pull that lever for Romney even though they will still continue making 23 cents an hour less than a man if they do, so I post on Facebook, I talk to people and I tell them that this election is not just about the party it’s about the person,” says Ridgell. “I tell them what’s on the line. We are going to be choosing Supreme Court justices, making decisions about women, about our seniors and we need to be thinking about everything.”

“I used to think of my rights as something that couldn’t be taken away, but I see now with these attacks on women how they’re making it legal to discriminate.” — Nadia Vilmont, Boston Medical Center managed care representative

Facing page: Marcia Ridgell in Boca Raton, FL Below: Nadia Vilmont in Roxbury, MA ROSE LINCOLN PHOTO

7

August/September • Our Life And Times


THE WORK WE DO:

CAPE COD CLINICS REFLECT DIRECTION OF HEALTH CARE A major goal of healthcare reform is to develop streamlined networks of specialized clinics where patients can get the services they need from local providers who know them. It’s hoped that this will be more cost effective and give patients easier and broader access to primary care and essential services. Cape Cod Healthcare in Massachusetts already works very much under this model, with a network that includes two hospitals, five health centers and 14 outpatient labs. Our Life And Times visited some of the sites in July to talk with1199SEIU members about how the system works in their region.

1. Physical therapist Jinx O’Loughlin works in rehabilitation services at Fontaine Medical Center in Harwich, which offers wellness, walk-in and specialty care services. She’s shown with patient James Brocoum, a retired physician who lives part of the year in Nashua, NH, and suffered a stroke in February. “I’ve treated everyone from millionaires to fishermen to people from the homeless shelters,” O’Loughlin says. 2. Caryn Everitt started in X-ray, then retrained as a mammographer. She worked at Cape Cod Hospital for three years before coming to Fontaine. 3. Bob Hart worked in Fontaine’s kitchen before moving to the maintenance department four years ago. “We do a lot of preventive maintenance here,” he says. “We go to 17 different sites.” 4. “There has been a lot of growth throughout the whole Cape,” says Claudia Fernandez, a medical secretary in rehabilitation services at

Fontaine. “They’ve opened up an urgent care center and it’s tremendously helped patients.” 5. Phlebotomist/patient service tech Christianne Baker works in the complex that houses Sandwich’s C-Lab site and Cape Cod Health Care’s Urgicenter, which is currently under construction. She draws blood as well as registers patients and keeps track of information. 6. X-Ray technologist Jennifer Geake sees a wide variety of patients in the recently remodeled outpatient imaging center located in Fontaine Medical Center. “The amount of patient flow has really increased. The equipment has been updated. Patients can get in and out very quickly; they aren’t waiting all day,” she says 7. Sandwich Imaging Center radiologic technologist John Butler previously worked at Falmouth Hospital. “I used to work in CAT Scan and that was just craziness,” he says. “It took me a month to adjust to how quiet it is here.”

August/September • Our Life And Times

8


THE WORK WE DO

3

2

1

4

5

“I’ve treated everyone from millionaires to fishermen to people from the homeless shelters.” — Jinx O’Loughlin

6

8. Phlebotomist/patient service tech Bonnie Finnegan at Fontaine’s C-Lab site, which is one of 14 of the blood labs on the Cape. “We do a little bit of everything,” she says. “We log in patients, centrifuge blood, prepare it for tests, and deliver any results.”

9

7

August/September • Our Life And Times

8


Our Delegate Leaders

FRONT AND CENTER Halina Kulesza has worked as a restorative aide and geriatric nursing assistant specialist at New Jersey’s Cinnaminson Center NH for the past 21 years. She was among the workplace leaders who voted for the Union about a dozen years ago. “We won the election 46-3,” she says. “We had a great team, and I worked closely with Pauline White, who was born in Jamaica and who later moved to Florida.” Kulesza made home visits, handed out literature and did phone banking for the campaign. She later served on the first 1199 negotiating committee. Shortly after, she cut back on her activities to spend more time with her then-teenage children. Last year, she stepped up her activities. 1199SEIU organizer Rhina Munck praises Kulesza’s commitment: “Since the passing of former delegate Eileen Lewis — who left behind an inspirational example of what a real delegate and leader is — Halina has taken her position very seriously,” Munck says. “She did not hesitate to step forward, and she exhibits an outstanding commitment and responsibility to represent her co-workers.” Kulesza is not shy or quiet about her involvement. At delegates meeting, you can always find her in the front row, say New Jersey 1199ers. Kulesza says that she has always recognized the need for a union. She emigrated from Poland in 1979 before the rise of the Solidarity movement there, but kept in touch with relatives. “My husband has always supported my union activity, and my children also are supportive.” Her son is a Rutgers University college student whose goal is to become a labor lawyer. Her daughter, a teacher, was active in both Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Philadelphia. Munck praises Kulesza’s unselfishness, her handling of grievances, attendance at meetings and Union events, and willingness to recruit new delegates and leaders from the ranks.

Top: Halina Kulesza. Above: Alyssha Jacobs

YOUNG, PROUD & OUT AT WORK Like a lot of people, Alyssha Jacobs, a patient transporter at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, never really thought much about unions — until she had a problem at work. “I went to my organizer and she helped me get through it, then she told me I ought to sign up to be a delegate,” says Jacobs, 25. “People my age are usually busy, out there running around and don’t want to commit the time, but I figured if I can make a change and support somebody’s life, I’m happy to do it.” Jacobs says the work that goes with being a delegate doesn’t faze her; she’s used to multitasking. Jacobs, an activist in Baltimore’s LGBT community, has been out since age 16. She was

JAY MALLIN PHOTO

on the front lines to pass marriage equality legislation in Maryland, which Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law in March. “I got to speak to the House of Representatives and that was just amazing,” she says. When Jacobs isn’t working she’s taking classes — attending ITT Tech — and studying to become a computer networking specialist. She expects to graduate next year. On top of her school and Union commitments, Jacobs is active in Alpha Eta Omega, an LGBT sorority that focuses on community service and empowering women. “Right now my biggest challenge is staying one step ahead of things. I have friends who like to go out and party, but I can’t do that because I have to stay in the books,” she says. “And I’m always getting phone calls about things that are coming up for the Union.” Jacobs hopes that all of her work can provide a role model for other young women.

Kulesza is not shy or quiet about her involvement. At delegates meeting, you can always find her in the front row “Things I do mean so much to me as a young person that’s in the life,” she says. “Older people want to school us, but as young people we want to push things and do things for ourselves. One of the reasons I love being a delegate is because we have so much to learn. And I get to come in and do my work and be who I am. It helps me to be really comfortable with myself.”

The work that goes with being a delegate doesn’t faze her; she’s used to multi-tasking. Jacobs, an activist in Baltimore’s LGBT community, has been out since age 16. August/September • Our Life And Times

10


OUR UNION

LEAD. UNITE. FIGHT: WIN FOR THE 99% SEIU Convention sets path for labor victories.

T

he Service Employees International Union held its 25th Annual Convention in Denver, CO May 28 through May 30, and more than 2,000 members from SEIU locals across the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada attended, including a delegation of 322 members of 1199SEIU. The convention’s theme was “Lead. Unite. Fight: Win For The 99%” and it brought together workers from every industry SEIU represents — including health care, building services, public services and law enforcement. Speaker after speaker called on members to build new levels of solidarity and community strength to help re-elect Pres. Barack Obama and to beat back the rightwing forces that are colluding to destroy the foundational programs of working peoples’ lives like public education, public healthcare, Medicare and Social Security. “It’s really motivating to see that we can all be united,” said convention delegate Marilyn Ralat Albernas, an RN from Kendall Regional Medical Center in Miami.

“It gets me angry and makes me want to go out and fight and tell people we need things like the Affordable Care Act.” On the convention’s third day, members were surprised with a phone call from President Obama, who urged them to keep building on the successes of his first term. “We’ve made a lot of progress,” said Pres. Obama. “But we also have a lot more to do. We’re reclaiming the security that the middle class has lost.”

O

ver the course of the convention, delegates from the International’s different sectors met to talk about the challenges facing their industries. During Health Care Division Day discussions centered on organizing victories like those throughout the Hospital of America Corp. chain, the need for reform and the effects of merciless state budget cuts around the country. Former 1199SEIU Pres. Dennis Rivera spoke about the tremendous victory for national health care that was the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and its peril as the U.S. Supreme Court considered

the ACA’s fate. (The convention was held before the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the law.) 1199SEIU Pres. George Gresham gave an impassioned speech reminding members of the movement’s progress. “We as workers are here to say we are never going back,” said Gresham. “We are never going back to the days when race divided us, when sexual preference determined how you were treated and where you came from mattered.” Regularly making their presence known at the convention were members of 1199SEIU’s PurpleGold delegation, the Union’s initiative for members between the ages of 18 and 35. “It’s extremely vital that our issues are heard,” says Nate Crowningshield, a pharmacy tech from Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh, NY. “As they keep saying, young people are the future of this Union and we are really suffering, especially with things like debt and student loans.” Convention delegates unanimously re-elected SEIU Pres.

Mary Kay Henry to another four-year term. Unanimously re-elected was Eliseo Medina as international secretary treasurer. Kirk Adams, Gerry Hudson, Eileen Kirlin, Valarie Long and Tom Woodruff were unanimously re-elected as executive vice presidents. Mike Fishman, the current president of SEIU Local 32BJ, was unanimously elected to serve as the newest international vice president.

I

n her remarks Pres. Henry called for the “highest level of unity” among members in the work of re-electing Pres. Obama and fighting all forms of social injustice. “One of the most important things I saw was that we spoke about partnerships across all types of people,” said Adekemi Gray, a patient service representative at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. “Gay, black, poor, white — we are all disenfranchised and we all need to come together and re-elect President Obama.” Also passed at the convention were numerous resolutions and constitutional amendments. For more information log onto www.SEIU.org.

“We’ve made a lot of progress, but we also have a lot more to do. We’re reclaiming the security that the middle class has lost.” — President Barack Obama

Clockwise from top left: At SEIU convention in Denver in May, members painted signs for a demonstration at Wells Fargo Bank and were surprised by a video from Pres. Obama. Pat Diaz, an RN from University Hospital in Miami at the Wells Fargo rally. Sheldon Hoyte, a dialysis technician at Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan, spoke for the young members of PurpleGold. Denver delegates experienced no shortage of Obama 2012 buttons, shirts and signs.

11

August/September • Our Life And Times


PUTTING AN END TO

August/September • Our Life And Times

12


SOCIAL JUSTICE

STOP AND FRISK Silent march speaks volumes. On Father’s Day, June 17, tens of thousands of demonstrators took time off from celebrating to defend New York’s youngsters and young men. They took part in a silent march from Harlem to the Upper East Side home of billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg to protest the New York City Police Department’s discriminatory and discredited stopand-frisk policy. The NYPD stopped 685,724 New Yorkers last year. Almost nine in 10 were Black or Latino, and nine in 10 were totally innocent. The march, initiated by 1199SEIU, the NAACP and the National Action Network (NAN), was endorsed by 300 organizations, representing rights, faith-based and labor groups. Many of the marchers — young and old, of many races, ethnicities, sexual orientations and religious beliefs — carried placards and banners calling for an end to stop-and-frisk and racial profiling and for justice for victims of the practice. Some carried signs calling for the prosecution of the police officers responsible for the shooting death of 18-year-old Ramarley Graham, the son of Bronx 1199er Constance Malcolm. Organizers of the march compared stop-andfrisk to issues such as voter disenfranchisement and “stand your ground,” which have a disproportionate impact on young people, people of color and immigrants. “Stop-and-frisk not only harasses and humiliates our youth,” said 1199SEIU Pres. George Gresham, “it makes us less safe by undermining the trust of, and partnership with, the police that is needed to oppose those who really do us harm.” “I’m tired of the outrageous racial profiling in our city,” said Sheldon Hoyte, a dialysis technician at Manhattan’s Beth Israel Medical Center. “When people like me see cops, instead of feeling safer, it just makes us uneasy.” Hoyte said he was first stopped in Brooklyn when he was 15, and he has been stopped eight times since then, but has never been charged with a crime. “I was first stopped when I was 11,” said Antonio Melendez, a 31-year-old porter at Bainbridge NH in the Bronx and a member of Purple Gold, 1199SEIU’s young members’ organization. “I’ve been stopped at least 10 times in all, and it’s humiliating,” Melendez says. “The NYPD make me feel more anxious than safe. Being stopped is also frightening because I have to be careful not to do anything that would

13

August/September • Our Life And Times

provoke them.” So-called “furtive movements” is one of the NYPD’s excuses for its stops. Leading up to the march, elected officials and the media in large numbers raised their voices and joined the cause. And the rightness of our cause was further demonstrated when several weeks before the march, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin granted class action to a lawsuit challenging the city’s stop-and-frisk program. “Suspicionless stops should never occur,” wrote Judge Scheindlin, adding that the widespread practice of such stops “displays a deeply troubling apathy towards New Yorkers’ most fundamental constitutional rights.” She decried the NYPD’s “policy of establishing performance standards and demanding increased levels of stops and frisks.” The mayor and Raymond Kelly, the city’s police commissioner, say stop-and-frisk is responsible for the 29 percent reduction in violent crime from 2001-2010. But during the same period, without stop-and-frisk, violent crime fell 59 percent in Los Angeles, 56 percent in New Orleans, 49 percent in Dallas and 37 percent in Baltimore. The march and the publicity that preceded it had an effect. In August, the NYPD announced that the number of stop-and-frisks was down 34 percent during the second quarter of the year. Hundreds of 1199ers from the Massachusetts, Upstate NY and Maryland-DC regions came by bus to join the march. “I’m here to support my New York brothers and sisters, but this is not just a New York issue,” said Sam Osebor, an 1199SEIU LPN at North Reading NH in Massachusetts. “Racial profiling takes place around the country.” A large contingent of retirees also took part. “My son-in-law has been humiliated by the police and I have a small grandson who I don’t want to have to go through the same thing,” said Lazar Hristic, an 1199er who recently retired from Elmhurst Hospital. The marchers called upon the New York City Council to pass the Community Justice Act, which is designed to help end the abuses. “Stop-and frisk doesn’t make us safe. It keeps us down,” said Victor Freytas, a Bronx Montefiore Hospital accounting rep and PurpleGold member. “I for one don’t want to live in a police state.”

“I don’t want to live in a police state.”

Tens of thousands participated in June 17 silent march protesting NYPD’s stop-andfrisk policy.


Around the Union

Civista nurses at an April contract rally.

CIVISTA NURSES WIN SAFE STAFFING

SOLIDARITY FOREVER

Solidarity and social media helped win their new contract.

Some 200 registered nurses at Civista Medical Center in LaPlata, MD in July won a hard fought new contract that includes competitive wage increases, significant staffing improvements and the region’s first joint labor-management project. LaPlata is a commuter town about 40 miles outside of Washington, DC. Negotiations began at the hospital, part of the University of Maryland network, in December and the nurses optimistically came to the table, says Med-Surg RN Dawn Connolly-Jones. “We were expecting things to move forward quickly, knowing that the hospital was doing well,” she says. “But they started negotiations with all the things they wanted to take away from us.” Management initially proposed givebacks that included reductions in earned leave, the number of paid holidays, holiday pay and on-call pay. Staffing issues went totally unaddressed. Doubly insulting was Civista paying big bonuses to its executives while squeezing every dime out of its workers; long-time Civista nurses went for years with small raises or no raises at all when the hospital was financially struggling.

“There were all these big bonuses being paid out, and the nurses aren’t able to take care of their patients?”

“It really made the difference and mobilized people and made people angry enough to say ‘enough is enough,’ we are not giving back anything’,” says Connolly-Jones. The nurses ramped up the campaign. They held rallies and used local and social media to let the community know what was happening. In the midst of negotiations they even fought off a management-orchestrated decertification campaign with a vote of 155-45. RN Gail Kingman was among a group of Civista nurses who visited 1199SEIU’s June Executive Council to share their story and invite support. “We know based on this management’s history that they are so antiunion,” said Kingman. “We’re doing this to look out for all of our staff — whether they’re RNs or ancillary. We have nurses taking care of 13 patients on one shift.” Things changed in July. Quickly. The nurses got ahold of some paperwork that disproved management’s cry of poverty. “We were able to show them that what we were asking for would actually cost them less than what they were paying out in bonuses,” says Connolly-Jones. “I think we were making them look silly for spending so much money and they weren’t willing to spend it on staff. There were all these big bonuses being paid out, and the nurses aren’t able to take care of their patients? I think that caused a real sense of embarrassment.”

Hundreds 1199SEIU members joined members of 1199C outside Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University Hospital for a June 23 “high noon” rally. Some 10,000 members of 1199C work in 70 Philadelphia-area nursing homes and hospitals and are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union. The rally and unity of the members helped them avert a July 1 strike and reach a contract with management.

August/September • Our Life And Times

14


Civista Nurses ➽University of Miami Hospital ➽Marriage Equality ➽Gateway ➽Philadelphia Solidarity

BREAKTHROUGH CONTRACT AT UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI HOSPITAL At a time of significant changes in health care and with many hospitals are facing layoffs and cutbacks, union members at University of Miami Hospital (UMH) have found a new way forward in a new partnership with management. The new approach 1199SEIU Florida members took to negotiations involved both union members and management working side-by-side to draft contract proposals with the help of a labor-management consultant. Most sessions took place at the Union office in Miami Lakes. Members realized that they shared the same priorities with management, which was providing top quality patient care, so the majority of the sessions were focused on how to achieve that. Among the major results of bargaining are: • UMH made a commitment to re-investing potentially millions of dollars in savings in frontline healthcare workers through gain-sharing wage increases. • UMH will be hiring over 90 new employees to help reduce workloads so that members can provide more personal care to patients. • UMH is also investing significantly in an historic Training & Education Fund — a first in Florida for 1199SEIU — for employees to move up the career ladder through tuition assistance, college prep, GED, ESL and undergraduate and graduate education. “I have been working here for 34 years. I have no intention of retiring any time soon, so knowing that I have job security to help take care of my grandchild is a great benefit to me,” says Janice Hall, a GI Unit Coordinator.

New contract at University of Miami was negotiated with an innovative approach to labor-management partnerships.

MARYLAND MEMBERS SUPPORT MARRIAGE EQUALITY 1199SEIU members along with progressive allies such as the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, the AFL-CIO, and numerous other organizers across the state will be working hard over the next several months to make Maryland the first ever state to affirm Marriage Equality through a ballot referendum in November. As part of their efforts, 1199ers members came together with Pres. George Gresham to create a video expressing their support for Marriage

Equality and the values that stand behind it. A law granting same-sex couples the right to civil marriage in the state passed the Maryland General Assembly and was signed into law last spring. The law does not take effect until January of 2013, however, and opponents are almost certain to gather enough signatures to bring the issue to referendum this November. 1199ers in the Maryland-DC region attended town hall meetings in July at which organizers discussed how to get

involved in helping to win at the ballot in November by upholding Marriage Equality for same-sex couples and Maryland’s DREAM Act for young undocumented immigrants.

Lisa Aslton-Lucas, a unit secretary at Greater Baltimore Medical Center, is among the Maryland 1199ers who appear in a YouTube video in support of Marriage Equality.

NJ MEMBERS STEP UP POLITICAL ACTIVITY New Jersey 1199ers are stepping up their political activity as they continue their fight for patients and members. Linda Tappendorf, a 19-year dietary worker and long-time delegate at Gateway Center in Eatontown, NJ, symbolizes this new level of involvement. She is helping to lead the fight of the 82 members at Gateway, who have been without a contract since February 2011. Gateway members are seeking a modest wage increase, fully funded health insurance and a secure retirement. As hard as she works as a Union delegate, Tappendorf felt that it was not enough. A longtime Eatontown resident, she sought an avenue to link her fight for patients and members to community and electoral work. “I realized there was so much more I could do for myself and my colleagues at Gateway by serving on the Monmouth County Democratic Committee,” she says. Tappendorf ran for the office and was elected in June. “I’m excited for the opportunity,” she says. Leaders of the 1199SEIU region say they will encourage and support more members to run for open county committee seats so that 1199ers can have a voice at the table in which to champion the concerns of the caregivers and stand up for working-class values.

JAY MALLIN PHOTO

15

August/September • Our Life And Times


THE BACK PAGE

END STOP AND FRISK Tens of thousands of New Yorkers on Father’s Day, June 17, joined a silent march calling for an end to the NYPD’s discriminatory stop and frisk policy. See story on page 13.


Our Life & Times  

OLAT September 2012

Advertisement
Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you