1199 Magazine: Union Power

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1 A Journal of 1199SEIU March-April 2023 Retiree Profile: Union Activism in Georgia League Reopener: Members Reset the Standard Work We Do: UMMC Midtown –Baltimore POWER UNION

Editorial: Awakening

The time for a reckoning has come. In the early days of the pandemic, when hundreds or thousands of members were going into work—many of them literally risking death for themselves and their family members each day—everyone was focused on the job at hand of saving as many people as possible

Now roughly three years later, many of us are still mourning the loss of family members, co-workers, as well as our patients and residents. Recovering from this kind of trauma is a long, slow process. Members will carry the scars of working on the frontlines for the rest of their lives.

But the giant that is 1199SEIU was not sleeping during this terrible period, we were fighting for PPE and hazard pay. We were also regrouping in order to come back with more strength and force than ever.

For 1199 members in New York, the recent state budget was personal. (See Speaking Truth to Power, p. 7) When more than 15,000 members made the trip to the state capital in Albany on March 21st, they wanted Governor Hochul to understand that her budget was a moral document. The lives of some of the most vulnerable patients and residents that 1199ers take care of across the state were literally on the line, if she did not allocate enough money to healthcare. The Union does not make permanent friends with elected leaders – only allies in the constant fight to ensure quality healthcare for all.

Many of our employers, facing their own financial struggles in the wake of the pandemic, have been slow to compensate members for the tremendous sacrifices they made. But in early March, the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes -- the employers association whose institutions employ roughly 90,000 of our members when taken together – agreed to meet the Union at the table to renegotiate our contract. (See Resetting the Standard p. 17) After four days of tough bargaining, management agreed to honor members’ chief demand to substantially increase our pay.

This new League agreement is expected to set a new standard for members in all the 1199 regions from Upstate New York, all the way down to Florida.

The giant that is 1199SEIU was not sleeping during this terrible [pandemic] period, we were fighting for PPE and hazard pay. We were also regrouping in order to come back with more strength and force than ever.

In Baltimore, Maryland, 1199ers at the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Midtown campus were recently able to negotiate dollar increases, which amounted to increases of more than 10 percent for the lowest paid members with the most seniority (See The Work We Do, p. 13)

Personal Care Attendants (PCAs) in Massachusetts were also on the move. Like home care workers in other regions, these members look after vulnerable clients in their homes. The wages of the 58,000 PCAs workers in Massachusetts are paid through MassHealth and directly tied to state funding. So, 1199 PCAs headed to the State House in Boston to deliver a joint letter to Governor Maura Healey, who took office earlier this year, after Union members worked hard to ensure her election.

Just like our employers who are only going to heed our legitimate demands if we demonstrate to them that it will cost them more to resist. 1199ers need to constantly remind our elected officials just who we are and what we are prepared to do if they fail to respect healthcare workers and the essential jobs that we do.

1199 Magazine 3 2 March-April 2023 @1199seiu www.1199seiu.org 4 We
Moved Non-violent civil
5 The President’s Column Demanding what we Deserve. 6 Around the Union Massachusetts PCAs Rally for Better Wages; Immigration Clinic Held in Florida; Members Lobby Lawmakers in Albany; 1199 Green Justice Caucus Renewed. 8 Speaking Truth to Power Thousands of members make their voices heard in Albany. 13
Hospital Baltimore 16
the Standard League members
dramatic pay
in a contract reopener. 18
the Bargaining Committee The members who worked hard to move management at the table. 20
her Union
22 Our History How 1199 has won landmark
Shall not be
The Work We Do Midtown
Retiree Profile Dr. Marlene Malcolm steps up
the past.
The gloves are off now.
1199 Magazine March-April 2023 Vol. 41 No.2 ISSN 2474-7009 Published by 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East 498 Seventh Ave, New York, NY 10018 (212) 582-1890 www.1199seiu.org president George Gresham secretary treasurer Milly Silva senior executive vice presidents Yvonne Armstrong Maria Castaneda Veronica TurnerBiggs executive vice presidents Jacqueline Alleyne Lisa Brown Roger Cummerbatch Tim Foley Todd Hobler Patricia Marthone Brian Morse Joyce Neil Roxey Nelson Rona Shapiro Gregory Speller Daine Williams Nadine Williamson editor Sarah Wilson art direction and design Maiarelli Studio photographer Kim Wessels contributors Marlishia Aho Paul Herring Jenna Jackson JJ Johnson Clemon Richardson 1199 Magazine is published six
a year—January/ February, March/ April, May/June, July/ August, September/ October, November/ December—for $15.00 per year by 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers E. 498 Seventh Ave, New York, NY 10018 Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY, and at
to 1199 Magazine, 498 Seventh
offices. POSTMASTER: Send
York, NY 10018
Cover: Members making their voices heard in Albany on March 21st. 22 8 16 CONTENTS
Regina Heimbruch

We Shall Not Be Moved

Non-violent civil disobedience in Midtown Manhattan for healthcare justice.

Members and community allies, led by 1199SEIU President George Gresham, stopped traffic during rush hour in an act of non-violent civil disobedience in front of the Governor Kathy Hochul’s New York City office on March 29th. They held tombstones illustrating what is at stake if the state fails to inject much-needed dollars into healthcare provision in the FY2024 budget.

The sit-down protest was held after hundreds of members marched behind a New Orleans’-style “second line” funeral procession from the 1199 headquarters to the Governor office.

“In the spirt of Dr. King, who recognized that injustice in healthcare is the most ‘shocking and inhumane’ form of inequality, we are prepared to put our bodies on the line to protect access to healthcare in New York,” said 1199SEIU President George Gresham. “Cutting funding to safety-net hospitals, reducing wages of low-income homecare workers, and failing to close the Medicaid coverage gap would be disastrous for our healthcare system still reeling from three years of the pandemic.We need Gov. Hochul to recognize the gravity of New York’s healthcare crisis and the life-and-death issues at stake.”

Demanding what we Deserve As healthcare workers, we’re leading the way on pay.

In 1959, a group of 5000 New York City drugstore workers made the audacious decision to organize the city’s hospital workers. It was audacious because, among other things, it was against the law at the time and the leaders of what was then Local 1199 were prepared to go to jail. It was also audacious because those drugstore workers, overwhelming Jewish men, were going to organize tens of thousands of mainly Black and Latina women, who were being paid $32 for a six-day workweek. Their daring paid off and eventually that tiny union grew to become our 450,000-memberstrong 1199SEIU we know today. In organizing the voluntary (not-for-profit) hospitals of New York City—and eventually the suburbs—the union also compelled the employers to organize themselves into the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes. Ever since, the 1199/ League contract, with its worldclass health and pension benefits, has set the standard for healthcare workers, not only in 1199, but throughout the country. And the League members constitute the beating heart of our union.

July 1, 2023; a 6 percent raise on October 1, 2024; and a 5 percent raise on October 1, 2025.

That was just the first step. The second came on March 21, when thousands of New York 1199ers converged on the State Capitol in Albany to demand the governor and legislature do the right thing: provide the funding that the state’s patients and their caregivers deserve in the wealthiest country (and one of the wealthiest states) on earth.

What we accomplish together as an 1199 family has far-reaching impacts for our healthcare system and the entire labor movement.

I mention this history to give some context to what we have just accomplished in what amounted to an early Spring Offensive in New York. Our members, represented by 500 bargaining committee members representing all job titles and institutions, reopened our contract with the League employers. With thousands of members making their concerns known inside their institutions, their message was received. After several days and nights of hard bargaining, we won agreement on a 7 percent raise on

By now, it is no mystery that we are the only advanced industrial country in the world without a healthcare system worthy of the name. These three years of the coronavirus pandemic have brought that conclusion home to anyone paying attention. A hodgepodge of private, public, forprofit, not-for-profit institutions in every sector of healthcare— long term care, acute care, home healthcare, etc.—compete for public dollars (taxes) in large part to pay off private, profitable insurance corporations. We desperately need—and deserve—a rational healthcare system that puts people first—like Canada or Costa Rica have, to name just two neighboring countries.

Meantime, we have to work with what we have. Today, home care is nearly paid entirely by Medicaid. Nursing home care is about 85 percent paid for by Medicaid and Medicare. Hospital care is paid for by Medicare or Medicaid by 30-to-80 percent, depending on the patient population. This is to say, we need to convince our government to pay for patient care—including caregivers. The challenges facing healthcare workers and the

people we care for have never been greater. Burnout, fatigue, short-staffing, low wages, chronic underfunding of healthcare services, and a lack of appreciation by those in power of the daily sacrifices made by workers, have brought our system to crisis. Remember back in April 2020, when hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers came out on their fire escapes, balconies and front porches to applaud our members as shifts changed? We were “essential workers.” Our employers, government officials, editorial writers all called us “heroes.” The attention has gone away but our members are still essential workers and are still heroic and they need to be compensated accordingly. We have a new governor in New York, Kathy Hochul, who is still learning the ropes. And we went to Albany to help bring her up to speed, to let her know just how important 1199ers are to the health of New Yorkers, not to mention to the electoral hopes of her and her colleagues.

From historic strikes to groundbreaking legislative and political victories, over the decades our organization—through your leadership and activism—has grown to become the most powerful voice for healthcare workers anywhere. What we accomplish together as an 1199 family has far-reaching impacts for our healthcare system and the entire labor movement. What we have done this spring in New York is to build this model of success—one we must export to the entire nation to ensure that no healthcare worker or patient is ever left behind.

1199 Magazine 5
“In the spirt of Dr. King, who recognized that injustice in healthcare is the most ‘shocking and inhumane’ form of inequality, we are prepared to put our bodies on the line to protect access to healthcare in New York.”
The President’s Column by George
– George Gresham 1199SEIU President  Diana Newball, a New York University Hospital Pharmacy Tech (left), stands with Michael Guevarez (center), and Judy John, a Financial Representative at Beth Israel Medical Center.  Members and officers block Third Avenue in front of the New York Governor’s office.
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 Michael Guevarez, a Recreation Leader at Brooklyn’s Seagate Nursing Home, stands up to be handcuffed by police.

Around the Regions

Massachusetts PCAs rally for better wages

1199 Personal Care Attendants (PCAs) joined consumers, disability and elder advocates, and elected officials on March 1st to demand the fair pay and benefits needed to end the dangerous shortage of PCAs in Massachusetts.

“I became a PCA to care for one of my best friends and have remained in the profession even after her death,” said Candejah Pink, a PCA from Springfield and member of 1199SEIU. “I love caring for others but it’s not feasible to remain in the field without a second income. Every day, it is a struggle to afford necessities like gas and food, even when deemed essential. No one should live like this; I deserve to thrive too.”

PCAs begin negotiations for a new contract with the state this month, with the priority to increase wages and benefits necessary to pay workers a living wage. The high turnover and shortage of PCAs

FLORIDA Immigration clinic held in Florida

has left elders and people with disabilities waiting for months for help, often with no assistance at all in their homes, and limited ability to care for themselves.

PCAs and their consumers headed to the State House from the Embrace Memorial to deliver a joint letter to the newly elected Governor Maura Healey’s office highlighting demands to invest in the future of home care. Among the demands, PCAs are asking for an entry wage of $25 per hour and benefits such as retirement. The PCA program is funded by MassHealth, employing over 58,000 workers across the state.

The home care workforce is majority women and women of color with wages that are flat, absent of growth opportunity based on experience or training. Workers said that low wages are a major contributor to a staffing crisis badly damaged by high turnover.

1199 Green Caucus Renewed

In the Florida region, Union staff and volunteers held a legal clinic for members who needed immigration advice at their office in Miramar on March 18th. Recognizing that unscrupulous lawyers were charging $500$1,000 to complete the necessary paperwork to benefit from recently enacted regulations, 1199 stepped in to help. Under the Biden administration there are new rules allowing people living in the United States who have relatives in Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela to bring their families to join them here if they meet certain criteria. Immigration rules are constantly changing and other 1199 members who are working in the US under Temporary Protected Status also received legal advice on how to renew their applications.

Members Lobby Lawmakers in Albany

A group of 1199 members traveled to Albany on February 17-19th to take part in the New York State Association of Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislators caucus weekend. Union members were there to make their voices heard about the desperate need for state funding for safety net hospitals that serve the neediest communities as well as better wages for homecare workers who look after the most vulnerable.

 1199 Personal Care

“Bridging the Medicaid gap is not only important to healthcare workers,” Shamika Burnett Mathews from Oishei Childrens hospital in Buffalo, New York, told lawmakers, “it is also important to our hospitals who are carrying a financial burden. It is important to our patients and our families. The hospitals need the funding to invest in our workforce. We want to believe at the end of the day we have done everything that we can do for our patients. Honestly, since Covid, I really haven’t felt that way in years.”

Climate change is the biggest health threat in the 21st Century, according to the World Health Organization. The health sector, which includes our nation’s hospitals, is responsible for roughly 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

The 1199 Green Justice Caucus relaunched in February and as this issue went to press a national Climate Summit was due to take place virtually with the wider union family of SEIU on April 15th. Members across the nation are mobilizing their political power at the local, state and national level to press for laws which ensure that our planet remains livable for everyone.

6 March-April 2023 1199 Magazine 7
Florida Maryland Massachusetts New Jersey New York Washington, D.C.
MASSACHUSETTS Attendants take to the streets in Boston, MA.  Members in Florida receive legal advice. NEW YORK  Patricia Marthone, 1199 EVP (left), stands behind 1199 member, Samika Burnett Mathews, with LaRay Brown, CEO of One Brooklyn Health System, Yudelka Tapia, NYS Assembly Member and Reverend Terry Calhoun.  NYC members rally for Green Justice.


Thousands of members make their voices heard in Albany.

1199 Magazine 9 8 March-April 2023
 Caption TK here

 Nursing home members march in Albany.

 Scheena Tannis, 1199 RN at Brookdale Hospital, speaks from the podium with her daughter, Siboney

Opposite page:

 Members make their voices heard.

It was a crisp and sunny morning on March 21st, when thousands of 1199 members from all over New York State converged around the Capitol building to make sure Governor Kathy Hochul knew what was at stake if she did not amend her proposed state budget. Bus after bus pulled into nearby parking lots until more than 15,000 members from New York City, Long Island and even Buffalo had filled the streets ahead of a massive rally which filled the MVP arena.

Members spoke from the podium about why the NYS budget was a moral document and warned that lives would be lost if crucial funding was not provided. They were joined by the Speaker of the NYS Assembly, Carl Heastie, and the NYS Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and other elected officials to press Governor Hochul to do the right thing. While

the message was stark, the mood was celebratory with Hip Hop artists taking the stage between speeches to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the genre.

“It is so exciting to be out here with everyone,” said Scheena Tannis, an RN at Brookdale Hospital Medical Center in Brooklyn, “But to be honest I would rather be at work with my patients because that is my life’s calling. I knew we had to come to Albany though, because we had to let the people who make the decision know, that the time is now. Funding is important to all institutions, but especially safety net hospitals like the one where I work.

“We are about 90 percent reliant on Medicaid reimbursement. Our patients are underserved and that is the type of insurance that they have. But for every dollar we get 76 cents. So, what happens to that other 24 cents? It keeps creating a gap which grows. At some point it will become insurmountable.

Michael Guavarez, Recreation Leader at the Seagate Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Brooklyn, added: “The budget that Governor Hochul is proposing is not going to have enough funding to take care of healthcare heroes like myself, our co-workers and our families, and the residents and patients who we take care of. The residents cannot come out [to protest]. They cannot make their voices heard. I have to come out for them.”

Another member from the Hudson Valley, Sean Thomas who works in Surgical Services at Putnam Hospital in the Hudson Valley, was also in Albany to demand that Governor Hochul increase Medicaid funding. He said: “It has been tough on all of us since the pandemic. We need funding both for our hospitals, for our patients and our families.

1199 Magazine 11 10 March-April 2023
“If you create such a deep gap, we are going to fall through and healthcare in NYS is going to collapse. NYS is too rich a state to allow something like this to happen.”
– Scheena Tannis, RN at Brookdale Hospital Medical Center in Brooklyn

"We have been short-staffed, burned out and for the longest of periods people are leaving our community hospitals to go somewhere else, just for better pay."

1199 Home Care members also came out to to board the busses in NYC in order to fight for their rights in Albany.

Ana Medina, Home Care member with the Personal Touch agency, said: “The title of Homecare Worker is a title we are proud to carry. However, we need fair pay to live with dignity. Last year, we worked hard to win Fair Pay for Home Care, raising our wages to $3 above the minimum wage. But now, even this is at risk. The governor’s proposed budget would bring us back to minimum wage and make more homecare workers leave their jobs.”

Midtown Hospital Baltimore

Members at the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Midtown campus ratified their strongest contract ever in February, after months of tough bargaining. In the end, members were able to negotiate wage increases that amount to more than 10 percent for the longest-serving workers. 1199 Magazine recently caught up with some of the Union Delegates on the bargaining committee to find out how they did it. In the years since workers first organized with 1199 to form a union at the hospital, members have been working steadily to improve their wages and conditions.

1. Lewis Gilliam was certified for his job in Peri-operative Services three years ago, thanks to a Union program. He prepares the carts that go into the Operating Room with the specific instruments needed for each surgery. Before that, Gilliam worked in Materials Management, which involves stocking the wards with supplies.

“It was a good apprenticeship for what I’m doing now,” he says, “but it was getting boring. I want to continue to advance and study to be a Surgical Technician. Before getting a job in the hospital seven years ago, I was a butcher at Safeway. But meat cutting is becoming extinct, and I enjoy helping people by working in health care.”

12 March-April 2023 THE WORK WE DO
 Dancing for justice in the arena.  Andrea Stewart-Cousins, NYS Senate Majority Leader speaks to members.  Leticia James, NYS Attorney General enlivens the crowd.
“The title of Homecare Worker is a title we are proud to carry. However, we need fair pay to live with dignity.”
1199 Magazine 13
Ana Medina, Home Care member, Personal Touch agency


2. “When I first came to the hospital more than 20 years ago,” says LaTanya Denton, “I started out on the night shift. I think I have worked on every floor in the hospital by now. I started working as a PCT in the Emergency Room about ten years ago, and came onto the day shift.

“This contract is the first time we got dollar raises, instead of percentages. This always works out better for the lowest-paid members. We were also focused on rewarding the people who had been here the longest. We had way too many members who had been working here for more than 30 years and were not even making $20 per hour. We wanted to reward those who had been loyal to the place. New people didn’t want to come here because the pay was so low. It is the best contract we’ve negotiated in all the time I have been here, with bo -

nuses coming in each of the three years.”

Denton and her colleagues were determined to get what they deserve.

“We work hard, and we were working short all through the pandemic,” she says. “[Just like in New York], the nurses had negotiated large raises. We were happy about that, but the nurses don’t run the hospital by themselves. Just like doctors can’t do their jobs without nurses, the nurses need PCTs and CNAs— and we all need EVS. We all work together. If one part is missing the whole machine stops working.

“We won because members got involved. As a Delegate, I would tell people, ‘I’m not going to get myself worked up, if you are not going to do your part, too.’ You can’t have somebody else fight your battles and then reap the rewards later.”

3. For Shania Oliver, it was important to be on the bargaining committee so she could represent patient care. As a PCT, she deals with the impact of short-staffing on a daily basis. Her job involves comforting families at the bedside, watching over suicidal patients, and protecting those who are at risk of falling out of bed.

“I love what I do,” she says. “But we surely deserve bonuses for what we went through during the Covid pandemic. We did not get enough appreciation from management.

“Short-staffing was getting worse because nobody was coming here because the pay was too low. The increases from our new contract just started coming through in mid-March. We are more than just numbers on their spreadsheets — and management needs to show us their appreciation.”

“But I was bored and wanted to try something different,” she says. “I started out in Food and Nutrition, was there for eight years, and then transport for six years. Then I was laid off. But because I had seniority in the union, I was able to get another job back in Food and Nutrition. If it weren’t for the Union, I would have been out of a job.”

McCrae says negotiating this last contract was tough.

“Whatever we asked for, they threw it back at us,” she says. “But as Union members, we know that nothing comes without a fight. In the end, we got the largest increases we’d had in a long time. Our raises were determined by our length of service. Because I have been here for 23 years, my wages went up by roughly 11 percent.

“We really needed it. People are struggling and having to work double shifts and seven-day weeks to make ends meet.”

The Maryland minimum wage was recently increased to $13.25, but Midtown members negotiated at least $15-an-hour for all Union members.

5. Sam Preston is a Unit Clerk on the Psychiatric Ward who has worked at the Midtown campus for more than 10 years—beginning when it was still a community hospital known as the Greater Baltimore Medical Center. These days, he says, “All workers have to struggle.”

“We did a walkout two days before settling the contract,” Preston continues. “We had to say enough is enough because what we were being paid was not enough to live on. You get $20/hr to deliver packages or serve meals in restaurants. But we are here helping to save lives and we were earning less than that!”

4. Now working in catering, Betty McCrae used to be an assistant third cook.
It is the best contract we’ve negotiated in all the time I have been here, with bonuses coming in each of the three years.
2 3 5
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Resetting the Standard

League members win dramatic pay increases in a contract reopener.

A lot can change in four days

When the 500 members of 1199SEIU’s League Bargaining Committee started the process of negotiating with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Health Systems to reopen the contract in March, they knew they had a battle on their hands. Their existing contract did not expire until September 2024.

As the three-year anniversary of the COVID-19 lockdown approached, healthcare members were still reeling from the longterm effects of the pandemic. Facing fatigue, burnout, shortstaffing, and low wages on top of a lack of appreciation by those in power for the daily sacrifices made by healthcare workers, League members demanded management come back to the bargaining table early. Having witnessed the recent contract victory of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), 1199 members knew that management had the means to do the right thing. “It was them that set that precedent,” said 1199SEIU President George Gresham. “What’s good for NYSNA is good for us. Our expectation is that

management is going to do right by all workers. We’re making a demand based on the new standards that are in place,” he said.

The demands were clear: wage increases of 7, 6, and 5 percent for the next three years and additional raises for 1199 RN members to ensure wage parity. Management began by saying they would agree to the wage increases but threatened to cut benefits—giving with one hand and taking with the other.

On Day 4 of the negotiations, members presented a “parade of medigrams”—large petitions specifically to League employers, reiterating their demands and filled with hundreds of member signatures, representing workers across all titles and facilities.

Members spoke passionately about working understaffed and being underpaid. Yolanda Pearson, PCA at Forest Hills Hospital, held up an empty medigram board, to represent the loss of life, both personally and of fellow 1199 members during the height of COVID-19.

“I haven’t forgotten about them, and we haven’t, but maybe [management] has. I’m here to remind you that we showed up every day and did what you asked us to do and went far beyond that. Many of us got sick and died. We’re not asking or begging—we deserve what we’re [demanding]; we’ve put our sweat and blood into this,” Pearson said.

She ended with everyone standing for a moment of silence to honor those lost.

After four days of negotiations, Management came with their best and final offer—wage increases across the board for all workers—with no givebacks. With the support of the Executive Council of the RN Division and RN bargaining members, it was a unanimous decision to vote yes for this new contract.

Brookdale RN Scheena Tannis celebrated the victory and reminded everyone that the work continues.

“Thank you to everyone,” she said. “You all made us as RN’s feel so supported. We appreciate every single person who put themselves at risk of not getting anything, but

we know that he who lives to fight, lives to fight another day. We have lifted every member of 1199SEIU, and for that there is no greater win. The battle is not over, but this fight is won!”

With this tremendous victory which raises wages across the board by 18 percent over the next three years, League members have secured the highest wage increases in decades and, according to their employers, won what amounts to a roughly $3 billion investment in their future. 1199ers have now reset the standard by which members will strive to achieve across all our divisions and regions.

1199 Magazine 17 16 March-April 2023 OUR UNION
“I’m here to remind you that we showed up every day and did what you asked us to do and went far beyond that. Many of us got sick and died. We’re not asking or begging, we deserve what we’re [demanding], we’ve put our sweat and blood into this.”
Yolanda Pearson, PCA at Forest Hills Hospital  Members feel the energy.  Committee present a “parade of medigrams”.  Yolanda Pearson, a PCA at Forest Hills Hospital speaks.


Here are just a few of the members who worked hard to move management at the table.

DAMIAN KIRKPATRICK Clerical Support Associate, Northwell Health LIJ Forest Hills

“I’ve always been an active member for nine years, but this is my first time on the bargaining committee. I was helping to disseminate information before. This time I wanted to become more actively involved.

"We know that positive movement takes time. But we will always fight for what’s right. Management is setting high standards for us and we meet them every single day. We expect basic common decency in return. It hurts that we have to fight for it.”


PCT in ER at NYU Langone

“These wage increases are long overdue. I was having to do overtime so much that my whole body is tired. I have worked at the hospital for eight years and it’s time for a change.

“I have co-workers here who are homeless. That doesn't make any sense. This increase is highly needed for all of us. With rents so high, some of us re only one paycheck away from being homeless. We work hard each and every day and we come home and our bodies are worn.”



“We needed raises, but we also need our respect. During Covid we were one of the nursing homes that saw many patients pass away. We worked over and over again 12, 16, 18 and some of us 24 hour shifts at the height of the pandemic. We should be recognized, respected and paid for the traumatic times that we went through. We need to be able to give quality care to our patients. But also quality care to our own families, who we also care for.”

JANE GERENCSER RN, Good Samaritan Hospital, Suffern, NY

“My unit was converted to a Covid unit when the pandemic started. I went from 8 hour shifts to 12 hours overnight. We were the soldiers, and I was going to answer that call. But it took away my passion for nursing because was not given the resources I needed. We were not listened too. Labor management committee were suspended and licenses were made more flexible. Management took that to mean that they could do whatever they wanted to and they did. Travelling nurses were brought in who earned significantly more. But they were not vested in the community. A high quality healthcare system cannot function without having employees who are vested in the system.

“We need help battling inflation, and the rising cost of living. It is just so hard to keep up with what is going on in these days and times. We’re not even out of the woods yet with the pandemic. We need as much help as we can get.”

AKILAH YOUNG Rehabilitation Tech Union Community Health in the Bronx

“It is very important for us to fight for better wages, because Management has not done right by us. In New York City, even a studio apartment will cost at least $1500 a month in rent. A lot of people have children. Their wages don’t add up.”


PA, NYC Health & Hospitals – Elmhurst

“I have been here for 32 years and I am seeing the hospital losing many good people. One person been there less than a year, but decided to leave in order to get $30,000 bump in pay.

“Those of us who stay end up being overworked. We run the whole ER on Wednesday and Thursday. Roughly 80 percent of PAs have been here less than two years. There is also a shortage of Radiology Techs. It can take hours to get an MRI.”


LPN, BronxCare special care center nursing home

“When we bargained for the last contract, we took into consideration what management was going through at that time.

"By reopening the contract now, We are simply saying that we also do deserve the same type of raises that some nurses received in their last bargaining. Through the whole pandemic, we’ve been there and we continue to be there and it’s only fair."


RN Brookdale Hospital, Brooklyn, NY

“As Union members, we have one interest and that is to make life livable for all of us. Some of us are working in places where we see agency nurses taking over the institution and 1199 nurses making a fraction of what they do. We are one Union and we respect each other’s roles. I may be giving direction because of my role, but not because I am better than anyone else. We have all lost friends, family and fellow 1199 members in this hospital.”

Schulman and Schachne Institute for Nursing and Rehabilitation at Brookdale Hospital KENDALL HUTTON NYP Allen pavilion, Facilities
“A high quality healthcare system cannot function without having employees who are vested in the system.”
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– Jane Gerencser

Retiree Profile: Dr. Marlene Malcolm

“I came to this country as a single mother with a young boy in 1991,” says Dr. Marlene Malcolm, a Jamaican immigrant to New York who started working as an 1199 Pharmacy Technician at Montefiore Medical Center upon her arrival.

“I had to work to keep us with enough food and shelter,” Dr. Malcom adds. “But I also knew I had to go to school if I was going to do better. My life was work, raising my son and taking classes. 1199 programs paid for a lot of my education—and for that I am eternally grateful.”

After retiring last year and settling in the Atlanta suburb of McDonough, Georgia—Dr. Malcom decided it was time to give back—she’s been working with the Union’s sizable chapter of Atlantaarea alums ever since.

This February, Dr. Malcom joined the roughly 100 Union retirees who took 1199-chartered buses from Atlanta to Montgomery, Alabama for a Civil Rights Black History Month tour. The group visited the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, the Civil Rights Memorial Center, the Rosa Parks Museum, and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice—

the stark, monumental shrine that names and mourns thousands of American lynching victims.

“It made me a bit emotional,” Dr. Malcolm said of the lynching museum. “I had to go sit on the bus to compose myself. It is hard to believe the violence that has happened in this country.”

Sharing experiences like these with her fellow 1199 retirees has also inspired Dr. Malcolm to become more involved in political action. Last year, she joined union phone banks to get out the vote during the critical state election that returned Georgia Reverend Raphael Warnock to the U.S. Senate and helped secure the Democratic Party’s majority in that body. Dr. Malcolm also took part in 1199 phone-banking for Stacey Abrams, during her second bid to become Georgia’s governor.

“Right now, I wish I had done more with the union when I was in New York because I am enjoying it,” she says. “I got so much from the union. Now I want to give back.”

Recalling her long career in New York, Dr. Malcom adds, “I came to New York to get an education. I got the job at

Montefiore and started looking into going to Long Island University. While I was completing the prerequisites to get in, I realized I could not afford to stop working and go to school full-time and maintain a house. I decided I had to do something because I was not going to come to America and not get the education I came for.”

With the help of 1199’s Training and Upgrading Fund (TUF), Dr. Malcom was able to study nursing and find a parttime job teaching pharmacology. She discovered the Union had programs that would not only pay for her tuition — but also give her a stipend to help with other expenses. The TUF programs allowed Dr. Malcom to finish her prerequisites at Lehman College and to earn her nursing degree from Bronx Community College.

Thanks to an 1199 Funds arrangement with employers, Dr. Malcolm was able reduce her work schedule to three-days-a-week while she was studying. “When I started school I was a bit older than the other students, so I had to work harder,” she says. “I woke up a lot of mornings at the table with a book open in front of me.”

And that’s not all. Dr. Malcolm says her 1199 benefits also paid for tutors to help her prepare for the NCLEX-RN exam. Another 1199 benefit program helped her buy her first home. Even her son, Vernon, benefited from a Joseph Tauber Scholarship, which enabled him to attend Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He is now a doctor practicing in Jamaica.

Dr. Malcolm went on to earn Master’s and Doctorate degrees in nursing practice. She also taught nursing at Molloy University on Long Island.

“There is no way I could have failed with all the help I got from the union,” Dr. Malcolm says. “I am indebted to 1199 because they gave me opportunities, and it made all the difference."

1199 Magazine 21 20 March-April 2023
“There is no way I could have failed with all the help I got from the union. I am indebted to 1199 because they gave me opportunities, and it made all the difference.”
 Dr Marlene Malcolm is graduated.  Dr Malcolm (right) takes part in Alabama history tour. – Marlene Malcolm
Looking back on her 1199 membership spurs retiree to Union activism. DR. MARLENE MALCOLM Retiree



The world-class contracts 1199 members within the NY League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes have negotiated over the last several decades are a testament to the Union’s remarkable success. The wage increases that were agreed at the recent League wage re-opener in early March, is just the most recent win. Central to these victories was broad community support, political action, expert public relations and communications. Most important, was the work of members in the workplace.

But the sizable increases League members just negotiated would not have been possible without Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s 1963 signing of state legislation extending collective bargaining rights to New York City’s hospital workers. During that campaign, Governor Rockefeller received a call from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. urging him to sign the bill.

Dr. King’s call reflected 1199’s ability to frame the economic struggle as a civil rights issue.

The campaign for workers’ rights and quality care was championed in New York’s communities of color. For example, the Spanishlanguage daily, El Diaro, dubbed the hospital campaign, “La Cruzada” (“The Crusade”).

The collective bargaining victory led to the landmark 1968 contract covering 40,000 members. The pact brought a $100 weekly minimum to 40,000 members, including those who had earned a paltry $32 a week when 1199 began its organizing campaign nine years earlier.

A changing industry environment of cost-cutting and consolidation meant that in 1972 and 1974, the Union won most of its demands through arbitration. A disappointing award in 1976 prompted President Leon Davis to declare, “We have been deceived. . . . the results this time will correspond to our strength; and our strength will correspond to our unity.”

That unity led to a 1980 contract providing a 14.5 percent

increase over two years. Internal conflicts within the Union resulted in an ill-fated 46-day strike and subpar contract in 1984.

When the reformist Save Our Union slate regained leadership in 1986, the tide began to turn. A central element of that change was reconstituting the delegate structure and rebuilding unity. The 1989 contract brought raises of 24.6 percent over four years and significantly improved benefits.

“The Union isn’t distant anymore,” Mount Sinai clerk Rosemarie Marrith said at the time. That contract campaign also highlighted the plight of newly-organized home care members.

In the 1990s, the Union had to turn its focus more directly on Albany and Medicaid reimbursement rates. Countless demonstrations by 1199 and its allies across the state and in the state capital prevented proposed Medicaid cuts of more than $11 billion during the decade. Aware that its resources were inadequate to meet the growing challenges of deregulation, restructuring and mergers within the healthcare industry, 1199’s members voted in 1998 to merge with SEIU, the largest healthcare union in the nation. That, along with other mergers, expanded the Union’s strength and reach.

1199 faced another challenge after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the subsequent economic decline. Union members and the League voted to extend the existing contract. Months later, in spite of the economic environment, the Union reached a groundbreaking agreement with the League. But the agreement depended on $2 billion in state funding. Members of

the state legislature wavered, but agreed on the funding after intense lobbying and the sight of several thousand chanting members who descended on Albany. The environment was also decidedly grim in 2008, with the nation facing its deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The crisis was so serious that in order to save the pension fund, the Union and the League agreed to reopen the contract two years before it was scheduled to expire. Members made some concessions on scheduled wage increases, but their world-class benefits remained intact.

Nicholas Denesopolis, lead receiving clerk at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, summed up the sentiments of many 1199ers at the time. “I came to 1199 because of the benefits and pension,” he said. “I just want some security. We got it.”

Elizabeth Akong, an RN at Jamaica Hospital in Queens, said, “We were able to win this contract because we kept our members informed and involved.”

22 March-April 2023
Member mobilization was the key ingredient.
“I came to 1199 because of the benefits and pension. I just want some security. We got it.”
1199 Magazine 23
– Nicholas Denesopolis Lead receiving clerk, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York  Members campaign for $100 weekly minimum in 1968.  A young activist joins an 1199 rally in Albany in 1990.

is a


the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Midtown campus in Baltimore, MD. He helped negotiate a contract ratified in February, which included dollar raises for the first time. “We had to say enough is enough because what we were being paid was not enough to live on,” said Preston. See page 17.

1199 Magazine 24
Sam Preston, Unit Clerk on the Psychiatric at
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