1199 Magazine - March / April 2020

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Saying Goodbye to 310

Celebrating Our Union Sisters

The Powwr of Older Voters

THE

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COVID-19

CRISIS 1199’s healthcare heroes on the front lines.

March-April 2020

A Journal of 1199SEIU March-April 2020


CONTENTS 5 19

10 4 The President’s Column Donald Trump is Destroying Our Planet.

14 Purple Armies Take The Capital Lobby Day in Annapolis and Tallahassee.

5 Coronavirus Response 1199ers on the front lines of a global public health crisis.

16 The Power of Older Voters Voters aged 55 and over are a mighty voting bloc.

10 Goodbye 310 1199 is moving on from its historic home on Manhattan’s west side.

17 Census Meetings Inform, Educate, & Mobilize Hundreds attended events throughout NYC and on Long Island.

12 America For All Our platform for this election year—and beyond. Pullout poster.

@1199seiu www.1199seiu.org 2

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18 Our Union Candidates Walk A Day In Our Shoes 19 #StayHome When You Can & Fill Out Your Census You can respond to the 2020 Census on line. 20 Celebrating Our Union Women International Women’s Month.


1199 Magazine March-April 2020 Vol. 38, No. 2 ISSN 2474-7009 Published by 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East 310 West 43rd St. New York, NY 10036 (212) 582-1890 www.1199seiu.org

Editorial: Our Caregivers Are Heroes 1199ers are the front line in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.

president

As this magazine goes to press, we are facing an unprecedented moment in modern history. Much of the world is engulfed in a pandemic, with skyrocketing infection rates and more people falling ill every day. The novel coronavirus isn’t just taking a physical toll; the illness is aggravating every tear in the global social fabric. Here in the United States, just a few weeks into the epidemic, the economy shuddered. More and more workers, particularly those in lower-wage and service industries, are losing jobs. Among the employed, working parents—already strained by the country’s unaddressed childcare needs—cast about for secure, dependable care for their kids. Shuttered schools mean parents are cobbling together care on the fly, then heading out into an uncertain world to earn a living and support their families. Seniors, one of the groups most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus, are in many places left to fend for themselves, without broad ranging eldercare. And of course, there’s the new burden on our inadequately resourced healthcare system. Already under near constant attack from budget hawks and corporations seeking to make a buck, healthcare is straining beneath the weight of previously unseen patient loads, a federal government unwilling to wholly address a national crisis, and the pre-existing conditions aggravating it. Yet, despite all of that, our front-line defenders continue to be there for us. Every day, the women and men who work in our healthcare system show up and gown up to save lives and fight the spread of the

George Gresham

Our caregivers make sure strangers’ children are well and cared for. They make sure strangers’ aging parents get healthy and enjoy more robust years with their children and grandchildren. They cool our fevers, ease our breath, and blunt the pain of our aches.

secretary treasurer

Maria Castaneda executive vice presidents

Jacqueline Alleyne Yvonne Armstrong Lisa Brown Tim Foley Patrick Forde Ruth Heller Antonio Howell Maria Kercado Steve Kramer Joyce Neil Monica Russo Rona Shapiro Milly Silva Gregory Speller Veronica Turner-Biggs Nadine Williamson editor

Patricia Kenney director of photography

Jim Tynan

art direction & design Maiarelli Studio cover photo

Jim Tynan contributors

Mindy Berman Regina Heimbruch JJ Johnson Erin Rojas Yvonne Slosarski Desiree Taylor

Woody Harrington

coronavirus. Every day, caregivers leave behind their own families, and brush aside fear and anxiety to care for strangers. Our caregivers make sure strangers’ children are well and cared for. They make sure strangers’ aging parents get healthy and enjoy more robust years with their children and grandchildren. They cool our fevers, ease our breath, and blunt the pain of our aches. In this magazine are the faces and names of those who belong on posters and in headlines. These are the people who deserve our respect, admiration and gratitude. These are our world’s real heroes. The pages of this publication hardly do them justice and are in no way fully capable of representing their contribution or expressing the gratitude of a nation. But it is a start. These few names and faces of our front-line defenders are representative of an army 450,000 strong. These are the people who every day are helping save us. They will lead us to a place where we can start to rebuild our nation and the world.

1199 Magazine is published six times a year—January/ February, March/ April, May/June, July/ August, September/ October, November/ December—for $15.00 per year by 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East, 310 W. 43 St, New York, NY 10036. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to 1199 Magazine, 310 W. 43 St., New York, NY 10036.

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Donald Trump is Destroying Our Planet Let’s limit the damage to one term. The President’s Column by George Gresham

What he has done in his mishandling of the pandemic is nothing short of criminal negligence. It’s emblematic of his entire presidency. 4

When I started this column in late February ahead of the Super Tuesday primary elections there were still a half-dozen Democratic candidates. I wrote that no matter which candidate you preferred among those in the running or the 20 who had already dropped out, the most important thing all of us need to do this year is defeat Donald Trump in November. We have no higher priority in 2020. And then COVID-19 became a pandemic. So much in our lives—especially as healthcare workers—changed. But if anything, it is clearer now than before that we have to assure that Donald Trump is a one-term president. What he has done in his mishandling of the pandemic is nothing short of criminal negligence. It’s emblematic of his entire presidency and he’d likely be imprisoned were he not the president. Early in Mr. Trump’s term, he destroyed the global health security and biodefense directorate that the Obama administration put in place to help prepare for emergent diseases. In November 2019, the coronavirus first appeared in China. The World Health Organization sent out its first alerts. Some countries had already begun to prepare for pandemics, complete with testing facilities, ventilators, protective gear for healthcare professionals and workers. America’s own intelligence apparatus warned of the impending pandemic as early as January. Even as it was revealed that tens of thousands of Chinese and South Koreans were infected with the coronavirus, the Trump administration did nothing. Worse, it denied the threat, calling it a hoax invented by the media and Democrats. The administration then wasted several weeks denying or downplaying the impending crisis, and

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doing little to prepare the population. Americans are now likely paying with their lives for this disastrous posture. A basic tenet of the Hippocratic Oath is, “First do no harm.” Trump is neither a doctor nor a caregiver, but as president, he is responsible for protecting the health and welfare of the American people. In that, he has been a complete failure. It is outrageous that medical professionals and healthcare workers don’t have the equipment and protection they need to save lives. Trump has shown that he neither knows nor cares what the purpose of government is, other than his own self-enrichment and selfglorification. As a healthcare worker, president of the largest healthcare workers’ union in the country, and father and grandfather, I take Trump’s failure personally. New York, where I live alongside hundreds of thousands of 1199 caregivers, has become the epicenter of the pandemic. After the September 11 attacks, police, firefighters and other first responders (including 1199 EMTs and other emergency personnel) who put their lives on the line were rightfully considered heroes. With the pandemic, thousands upon thousands of our sisters and brothers, understaffed and without sufficient protective gear, work long hours to protect, treat and care for our frail elderly in their own homes and in nursing facilities, and in our overwhelmed hospitals. New Yorkers by the millions—and not just New Yorkers of course—count on us healthcare workers. Every 1199 sister and brothers should be rightfully proud as the people of our communities come to recognize your heroism. The Trump administration’s

complete failure in face of the greatest public health crisis in modern history is only the most glaring example of how dangerous his presidency has been. We have all witnessed the damage he has caused day after exhausting day these past three years. We have all seen the outright corruption—not only his personal corruption in looting our tax dollars to make millions from his hotels and golf courses—but his corruption of the government itself. He is turning the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, into an arm of the Trump Organization. He has waged war, including actual billions of Defense Department dollars, against immigrant workers from Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as Muslims, Asians and Africans in our communities. From the day he took office, he has made no attempt to be the President of the United States, only the president of his far-Right base. It is not an exaggeration to say that the fate of our planet is at stake. Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, his dismantling every important environmental safeguard, and his efforts to turn the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Interior into fossil fuel industry lap dogs endanger human civilization. An additional four years of his “policies” may set the stage for more pandemics and put out of reach humanity’s ability to halt melting ice caps, rising sea levels, drowning coastal cities, wildfires, and the fight for the survival of our children and grandchildren. Our mission in November is clear: We must defeat Donald Trump. No More Years. Failure is not an option.


THE COVID-19 CRISIS

Caregivers fight to protect and heal the nation.

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THE FRONT LINES

HEALTHCARE HEROES ON

Traditionally, this time of year holds the promise of renewal. But right now, the United States is in the grips of a pandemic. America’s spring will never be the same. We are in a moment unlike any in recent memory. It is a mass casualty event in which hundreds of thousands have become sick or died. Hundreds of thousands more are left behind, without family or loved ones. Our thin safety net is shredded, and the strength of America’s people is being tested in ways never before seen. Incomparable to any disaster, act of God, or domestic mass casualty in recent U.S. history - even 9/11, which forever changed the country’s national psyche - the pandemic’s scope is unmatched in terms of the body count and ever-increasing demand on infrastructure and resources. Every single 1199er in every single region of the Union is affected. Many of us, personally and professionally. 1199ers’ roles on our nation’s front line in this public health crisis has highlighted the critical place of caregivers

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in our society, and amplified New York State is home to the our societal weaknesses, the global COVID-19 epicenter, struggles of our healthcare New York City, and its environs system, and the power-based are increasingly crippled by the calculus of our national virus. News and social media leaders. are daily streams of scenes Over the course of the of beleaguered New York crisis, governors City, hospitals, and other wailing sirens, “We are all going state and and exhausted through this, but local politicians workers caring pleading with an everyone in healthcare for tens of deals closely with unresponsive thousands of people and that can be Federal sick patients, very stressful, but we Government many of whom are needed now more for resources were victimized than ever.” and support by systemic — Florine Simpson, Home has become a health disparities Health Aide, Stella Orton familiar sight. long before the Agency, Staten Island, NY


COVID-19

JOIN THE FIGHT FOR THE PPE WE NEED. TAKE ACTION. Fund Medical coronavirus made Director Dr. Van its way to American “President Trump is trying to downplay Dunn. Organizers, shores. everything. Today, we officers, and contract Governors got a second cooler administrators have have become truck for the bodies at also implemented defacto national Wyckoff. These aren’t new ways of keeping crisis leaders, just bodies. These are in contact with regularly engaging somebody’s family federal officials members who could not members, including Zoom meetings, who dismiss states’ have their loved ones concerns and mock beside them in their final Twitter chats, and localized tele town their projections, hours; who can’t have halls. recommendations funerals. I don’t know Still, as the crisis how much more real this and death tolls. can get.” unfolded, the Trump 1199SEIU Administration sat members have been - Gina Torres, X-Ray back and engaged vocal leaders in the Technician, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY in a game of politics. fight for access Donald Trump and his to the national stockpiles of crisis and emergency advisors downplayed risk, called COVID-19 a hoax, race baited, supplies and the production of pitted states against one another, personal protection equipment and derided and (PPE), ventilators, N95 masks, contradicted some gowns, gloves, and other supplies. of the nation’s (and “Everything changes To that end, 1199 has mobilized the world’s) most by the hour. I’m an ER experienced doctors, nurse, so I’m used to members, connecting with constant change, but crisis management elected officials and expanding I’m not used to the kind experts and information and communication of lack of leadership we scientists. As tens outlets to keep workers informed are experiencing with of thousands and active. The Union hosted this lack of supplies continued to fall several regional and unionwide and constantly ill and die and as tele town hall events that included changing standards of allies Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), outraged caregivers care.” across the country Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ) and — Kimberly Aspelin, RN, cried out for PPE, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Charles Regional Medical Center, La Plata, MD ventilators and as well as 1199 National Benefit

1. Sign the petition demanding that our government use its full power to access and manufacture the PPE we need. Go to www.1199SEIU.org to sign. Share it with your community. 2. Share your stories from the frontline on social media. Post a selfie with the hashtags #PPE, #WeAreEssential, #NormaRaeChallenge, or #1199OnTheFrontLine. Make sure you’re holding your “Give Me PPE” sign up over your head. 3. Be a part of your community. Make sure your friends, family, and neighbors are sharing the message of support for our caregivers by signing the petition and supporting our campaigns on social media.

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Member Poetry: Our Creativity Still Thrives

COVID-19

By Becca Rosselli

I see the headlines on the News I watch my family’s panicked faces An illness coming for us all Nondiscriminatory to our races I watch the life that I once knew Quickly turn to shambles We dash to the store to buy our eggs As the worlds becoming scrambled The shopping malls are closed My favorite bookstore too Their jobs are now in holding As they try to make it through They say they cannot stock the shelves And toiletries an issue In search of comfort in misplaced love It makes me grab my tissues We watch the numbers on tv Growing and coming fast We hug our families before we work Hoping it won’t be the last We help you because we love you To keep you safe from harm We were called and so we answered To be your healing charm The sacrifices that I’ve known I hope you never have to make The next time I hug my daughter Left between history and fate There are no words that can be placed To properly name my sorrow I only know our unity today Will help us build tomorrow Becca Rosselli is an LPN at Newfane Rehabilitation and Health Center in Newfane, NY.

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“Staten Island is very small. We are really feeling the wrath of this thing. When I was growing up, we had five hospitals. Today we have three and only one level one trauma center on the island. Every day I wake up and get on my hands and knees and pray these numbers don’t keep going up. Everyone knows someone who is affected, infected or dead.” — Kim Fish, PCA, Staten Island University Hospital North

resources, President Trump used public appearances to air personal grievances, cast doubt on the vast need for supplies and resources, and humiliate the journalists tasked with reporting the almostincomprehensible crisis. As of early April, there were more than 311,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and just shy of 8,500 deaths. National and local experts predict a grave expansion of those numbers and an epidemic that will tear through even the most rural parts of the country like wildfire.

The New York Times caregivers are in the “The government knew trenches, helping reported on April 5 about this since 2019. that the number of heal the very sick, They should have cases nationally was and too often, beside made sure that we had COVID victims as expected to double enough PPE and that every five days. they cross over As the COVID-19 we were alerted to this to the other side, situation. They knew a fire burns, hundreds stepping in for family pandemic was coming of thousands of loved cruelly robbed and now it’s here and caregivers and we don’t have what we by the virus of the frontline responders opportunity to help need to handle it.” are at work saving ease the way and say — Carol Wills, CNA, Terence lives and fighting last goodbyes. Cardinal Cooke Care Centre, New York, NY the outbreak. As These pages many of us watch the are just a glimpse once-unimaginable scenes of of 1199ers during this crisis, sickness and death from afar, our doing what they do every day: Undertaking a deadly risk and walking into hospitals, nursing homes, and private homes to do the job of caring for others. In the coming months, we will have a more comprehensive story of our members, their heroism, and their part in healing our country and the world. But for now, these pages are the story of today, and they represent the incredible strength of the 1199 army, and their fight against an invisible enemy.


Social Media

COVID-19

@1199SEIU_NJ “I stayed at work for you, please stay at home for me.” Nursing home workers are on the frontlines in the fight against #coronavirus. Let’s heed their call to help #FlattenTheCurve! #HealthcareHeroes

1199SEIU Florida They’ve got your back. Let’s do our part by staying home to help stop the spread of the #coronavirus. Government should do its part and provide PPE for frontline caregivers so they can protect themselves and the people they care for at hospitals and nursing homes. #WeAreEssential #wecareforfl

@1199SEIUFlorida “These committed caregivers are afraid and upset that the public wellbeing and their own safety are not being adequately served by the State,” Dale Ewart, 1199SEIU Acting Exec. V.P. & FL Regional Dir.

1199seiu_mddc

1199seiuflorida The #coronavirus has laid bare the need for paid sick time for caregivers and all workers. Call Congress: 844-898-1199. #ProtectAllWorkers #WeAreEssential Kayla Skillin The BEST nurses in the City! (BMC MICU A aka COVID ICU)

1199SEIU in Westchester, Hudson Valley, Capital Region

1199seiu_mddc #HealthcareHeroes across the US urgently need more and better #PPE —N95 masks, gloves, gowns, and sanitizer. The federal government needs to release this critical equipment from the stockpile NOW! Let’s get the message out asap—POST A PICTURE OF YOURSELF TODAY with a sign saying #PPE or #GetMePPE,—then upload it to social media (use the #WeAreEssential, #HealthcareHeroes, #GetMePPE or #1199OnTheFrontline hashtag). Let’s all be like #NormaRae and make sure the rights and safety of healthcare workers are a top priority during this crisis. When we stand tall and demand what we deserve —we win for our patients, for our families, and for ourselves.

1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East Courage is contagious! 1199SEIU #HealthcareHeroes everywhere are making it clear: they can’t take care of us if they can’t take care of themselves. Share if you agree! #GetMePPE #WeAreEssential

What Yazmin and millions of frontline healthcare workers across the country are experiencing in terms of the lack of personal protective equipment just ain’t right! We’ve been calling on our government, large corporations, and industries to do the right thing and #ProtectAllWorkers by investing immediately in health and safety measures to ensure clean and sanitary working conditions and protection from infection. Yet, a lot of what we’ve seen so far are self-interested politicians looking out for corporate executives who plan to use emergency relief packages for stock buybacks. Help us support the frontline healthcare workers who are currently risking their own health and the well-being of their loved ones to protect our communities: http://seiu. me/protect-all-healthcareworkers-now-fb.

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OUR UNION

Saying Goodbye TO THE HOUSE THAT CAREGIVERS BUILT 1199 is moving from its famed Manhattan headquarters on West 43rd St., but the building’s proud history lives on.

For nearly a half-century, 1199’s Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center at 310 W. 43rd St. in Manhattan has served as a home to both every 1199er as well as the nation’s progressive movements. In the next few months, the house that healthcare workers built will close its doors for the last time, and 1199SEIU will move to a larger, updated headquarters that can better serve members and accommodate a staff that has grown as exponentially as the Union. While the Union is leaving behind its historic home, it’s hardly leaving 10

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behind its history. Since opening in the fall of 1970, the MLK Labor Center has been a virtual who’s who of the progressive movement, welcoming scores of renowned union leaders, local and world leaders, elected officials, artists, and activists of countless movements. The MLK Center was a far cry from the Union’s early headquarters— cramped offices above a Third Avenue butcher store in Manhattan. 1199 leaders had for many years dreamed of having an all-purpose headquarters

1199’s home at 310 W. 43rd St. in NYC

that would provide functional facilities for staff as well as serve the social, cultural, educational and recreational needs of members. And at its opening, 1199 leaders stressed that 310 West 43rd Street would be “a place where all elements of the Union can fuse their varied cultures in a common effort to build a better society, a better community and a better New York.” Built for a cost of around $3 million, the modern, roomy, 15-story structure, on the fringes of Times Square was named for the Union’s patron saint


and reflected the Union’s rapid growth, dramatic advances, and vision for communicating the realities of working life. Speaking at the MLK Center’s opening, President Leon Davis reported that the building’s name was chosen to honor the martyred leader —1199’s North Star—and remind members of the Union’s commitment to the principles Dr. King espoused. Davis also reported proudly that the last Union contract included Dr. King’s birthday as a paid holiday and that the lowest pay for hospital workers had risen from $27.50 to $110 per week in 10 years. Other speakers at the opening included Mayor John Lindsay; Rep. Herman Badillo of the Bronx, the first Puerto Rican elected to Congress; and Manhattan Rep. Bella Abzug, a pioneer in the women’s and political movements. A bronze bust of Dr. King by Dr. Alan R. Bleich was part of the original design (and still adorns the building’s lobby). The building featured two auditoriums for member gatherings; one named for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and another honoring socialist labor leader Eugene V. Debs. Meeting rooms on the second floor carried the names of Walter Reuther of the United Auto Workers; abolitionist Harriet Tubman; scientist and humanist Albert Einstein; Puerto Rican educator, philosopher, writer and lawyer Eugenio Maria de Hostos; and poet Emma Lazarus. Over the years, the names of the rooms have changed to honor other late heroes. A stunning mosaic mural by the progressive artist Anton Refregier dominated the building’s entrance. The intricate work includes people of all races, among them healthcare workers of various professions, young students, and adults meeting, working and playing together. The centerpiece depicts two hands—one black, one white—exchanging a leaflet with the words of the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, “If there is no struggle, there can be no progress.” The MLK Center will forever be remembered as a key center of progress, where visitors included the most common to the most exalted. Members could conduct the daily business of

Union membership as well as socialize at dances and cultural events, and even purchase a low-cost meal. National and international leaders who have spoken from the auditorium’s stage include Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton; New York State Governors Mario Cuomo and Andrew Cuomo; New York City Mayor David Dinkins; and Caesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, leaders of the United Farm Workers. Artists also found a home the MLK Center. The Bread & Roses gallery was the nation’s only art gallery in a Union headquarters. In 1979, the first year

of the Bread & Roses program, the gallery housed exhibits such as “Rise, Gonna Rise: Portraits of Southern Textile Workers,” by famed labor photographer Earl Dotter. Also, that year, the gallery presented “Year of the Child,” a multimedia event of lectures, films and live performers, sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Both the Dotter and UNICEF exhibits attracted thousands of students as well as 1199ers, other unionists and outside patrons. Over the years, the gallery has exhibited the work of some of the nation’s most celebrated artists. They include Jacob Lawrence, Milton Glaser, Sue Coe, Alice Neel, Ralph Fasanella, Judy Chicago, Luis Jimenez Jr. Some of the exhibits have even toured the world. “A good union doesn’t have to be dull,” was an oft-repeated slogan of Moe Foner, 1199’s genius public relations director and Bread and Roses founder. Foner also said, “laughing together helps to build the Union, forging unity and solidarity among a diverse membership.” The King Center has been a powerful vehicle and brilliant symbol of that unity and solidarity.

 A vintage issue of 1199’s publication featuring the new Union headquarters.

The stunning mosaic featuring Frederick Douglass dominates the entrance of The MLK Labor Center

1199’s NYC home was named after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1199’s North Star.

“A place where all elements of the Union can fuse their varied cultures in a common effort to build a better society.” 1199 Magazine 11




POLITICAL ACTION

Purple Armies Take The Capital Florida and Maryland members lobby lawmakers.

Dozens of 1199SEIU Florida members recently turned Tallahassee purple this February for Senior Day, one of the most important public events this Legislative Session. Caravans of CNAs and other workers with 1199SEIU, the first labor union to be a community sponsor of the highprofile action, made their voices heard for seniors and their caregivers to lawmakers, news media and other key audiences. Union teams set up booths in the busy outdoor Capitol Courtyard and indoor rotunda to engage state officials and others who can help this vital cause as legislators consider bills that will impact Florida seniors and long-term care workers. Meanwhile, member teams fanned out in a flurry of face-to-face lobbying visits to 30 state legislators, sharing personal stories of challenges on the job and making ends meet at home, their commitment to hard work and dedication to their patients. “It’s critical that lawmakers see our faces and hear our voices before they vote on a healthcare issue, because we’re the experts on the front lines taking care of our patients and our own families each and every day,” said Veronica Bryan, who led the Miami lobbying team. And in Maryland, 1199ers headed to Annapolis on February 20 for Legislative Action Day. Workers spoke 14

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to elected officials to press for change around criminal justice issues and to demand that corporations and wealthy institutions pay their fair share for wages, education, and healthcare. The event was a first for Member Political Organizer (MPO) Ashley Jackson, a patient care associate at Baltimore’s Sinai Hospital. “I became an MPO because I wanted to make changes in healthcare. Because of medical bills my paycheck has been garnished,” she says. “Sometimes I can’t even afford to pay a $50 bill at the end of the month. This is important so we can make change. By doing this we can see that other people have the same issues as you. By doing this and making change it pushes us to do even more.”


At a February Lobby Day in Annapolis, workers pressed officials for change around criminal justice issues and the need for corporations to pay their fair share for wages, healthcare, and education.

“ It’s critical that lawmakers see our faces and hear our voices before they vote on a healthcare issue, because we’re the experts on the front lines taking care of our patients and our own families each and every day.” — Veronica Bryan

Florida 1199ers at their February Lobby Day in Tallahassee.

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 Mary StovallMerrill, President of 1199SEIU’s Retired Members Division

High Stake for Retirees in

Time of Crisis They continue to raise their voices.

As the Coronavirus epidemic unfolds, at least 112,000 members of 1199 are among the most vulnerable in our nation. Those are the members of 1199’s Retired Members Division (RMD). “We have to be careful, because we don’t have the same immune system as younger people,” says RMD president Mary Stovall-Merrill, stressing that the Union and its benefit funds are doing all they can to meet the needs of retirees during this unprecedented crisis. “But while doing that, we can also continue to fight for the issues of concern to ourselves and other working people and stand by our courageous sisters and brothers on the frontlines,” she adds. “I’ll find ways to continue to help,” says Jennifer Montague, a former Brooklyn Brookdale Hospital delegate for 20 years and now a member of the Leon Davis chapter in Broward County, Florida. “I am active in my church, my housing complex and a local food bank,” she says. 16

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“ We have to be careful, because we don’t have the same immune system as younger people, but while doing that, we can also continue to fight for the issues of concern to ourselves and other working people.”

“I’ll continue to do what I can to help in this year’s elections,” says Montague, who has been a poll and election worker. She’s worked for the Joe Biden campaign this year but stresses that she’ll work for whomever is the Democratic nominee in order to unseat the current president. Her sentiments are echoed by Ray Flores, a retiree from Flushing Hospital in Queens and member of the Orlando, Florida’s George Gresham Retiree Division Chapter. “Four more years of the current president and we won’t be able to recognize our country,” Flores says. “During this epidemic especially we need a leader with character, someone who is supportive, not someone who lies and tries to turn us against each other. We will make phone calls and do GOTV work, whatever it takes to get rid of the president.” Flores says he has not forgotten the dismissive attitude of the president towards his sisters and brothers of his native Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Renee Lindsay-Thompson was a Bronx Montefiore Hospital LPN until she went on disability in 2008. Today, she is a leader in the newly-formed Atlanta, Georgia, 1199 retirees chapter. She’s also concerned about young people of color and our nation’s criminal justice system. “I care about education, affordable homes and racism in general,” she says. She’s also politically active. “Last year we worked hard on Stacey Abrams campaign for governor,” she says. “We organized our members to canvass door to door.” Clifton Broady was a lead respiratory technician at Manhattan’s St Clare’s Hospital, a delegate and a leading member activist before he retired to Rockingham, North Carolina more than a decade ago. “We need somebody in the White House who can bring our country together, especially during this crisis,” Broady says. In the early days of the coronavirus crisis, Broady proposed that retirees who are physically able should be given an opportunity to assist their brave fellow 1199ers at hospitals and clinics. “Of course, we have to fight for personal protective equipment and ensure all the necessary safeguards for retirees, but that should be true for all workers,” he stresses. Evelyn Blissett, a longtime delegate at Brooklyn’s Maimonides Hospital and chair of Brooklyn’s Mattie Small chapter, says that keeping safe doesn’t mean slowing down. “Being active means, for one, providing information to chapter members that they need.” Besides leading her RMD chapter, Blissett serves on many community committees where she fights for issues for those on a fixed income such as affordable housing and food security. RMD president Stovall-Merrill notes that in the midst of the crisis and the national elections, 2020 is also a national census year. The Union is working with outreach partners to ensure that everyone is counted, especially members of the most vulnerable communities. She reminds all retirees to stay safe, but also to continue to raise their voices, encouraging them to get online. “Our retirees should not be afraid of social media. They should ask for help. If I can learn, they can learn. We can learn together. The stakes are so high, that we all have to help.”


OUR UNION

BOROUGHWIDE MEETINGS INFORM, EDUCATE, & MOBILIZE Hundreds attended events throughout NYC and Long Island. To prepare for the upcoming election and U.S. Census, as well as educating members about the realities of health disparities and systemic conditions in our communities, 1199ers gathered recently for an unprecedented series of meeting held in the five boroughs of New York City and on Long Island. The gatherings were conducted at venues that included Hostos Community College and a Knights of Columbus Hall, brought together 1199SEIU activists and delegates for broad ranging conversations with experts from the U.S. Census Bureau, the New York City Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, and Union officers and staff. Takisha Jenkins, a medical office assistant at Northwell’s Cohen Children’s Hospital in Glen Oaks said the meeting was important for building an informed mobilized membership ahead of the November 2020 elections. She attended the Queens event, which was held on March 4, at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center. “Knowledge is power and we can never have too much of it,” said Jenkins. “Being in the know about the Union, what we are doing, and what is available to members is really important in these times. You can’t

ask for a better way to strengthen the relationship with the Union than through events like this.” At the Queens meeting, members heard from U.S. Census Bureau Partnership Specialist Siddiq Khan, who explained how the current census is being conducted and the importance of responding. Kahn also answered members’ questions and concern, including inquiries about the use of census data and security of the process.

“When I represent my members, I don’t just want to speak wind, I want to know what I’m talking about and speak about the facts.” The Manhattan meeting on February 25 was the last among the last of its kind at 1199’s NYC headquarters; the Union is preparing to move to its new larger headquarters near W. 37th St. (See story on pages 10 and 11.) Gladys Dari-Bruno, a contract administrator at NYU Langone in Brooklyn said the evening was bittersweet. “This has been our home for so long and there’s so much history in this building,” she said. “It’s sad to go, but we are also moving on to bigger and better things.” At press time, the Union was planning more events to bring together members and provide opportunities for education and leadership development, but that work is paused due to the coronavirus outbreak. Be sure to keep an eye on www.1199SEIU.org and the Union’s social media platforms for more information about when normal activities and events will resume.

“ You can’t ask for a better way to strengthen the relationship with the Union than through events like this.”

1199ers at Boroughwide meetings in Brooklyn and on Staten Island.

The first event was held on January 29 at Long Island University’s Kumble Theater in Brooklyn. The meeting brought thick crowds to Central Brooklyn who were eager to hear about the Census and share their views of the challenges faced by Brooklyn’s healthcare system. Paulette Forbes, from Brookdale Medical Center, and Michele Ned, a long-time activist at Interfaith Medical Center, gave a joint presentation on the revivals of their struggling institutions, and the central role a mobilized workforce played in it. (Interfaith and Brookdale are among Brooklyn’s vulnerable safety net hospitals.) “I came to the meeting for education,” said Iota McFarlane, a PCT at NY Presbyterian-Queens. 1199 Magazine 17


OUR UNION

Candidates Walk A Day In Our Shoes

 Sen. Ed Markey visited Massachusetts PCA Janice Guzman at her Worcester home for a February ‘Walk A Day In Our Shoes’ event.

In March, Massachusetts home health workers welcomed Joe Kennedy III and U.S. Senator Ed Markey into their homes to hear about the struggles of personal care attendants and walk a day in our shoes to learn about the real-life experience of caregiving. Kennedy is running against Markey for the U.S. Senate seat representing Massachusetts. Kennedy visited several homecare workers in Springfield, while Markey spent the day with PCA Janice Guzman and her family in Worcester.

 Joe Kennedy, Jr, who is running against Markey for a Massachusetts Senate seat, visited a group of PCAs in Springfield.

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W E C A R E . W E C O U N T.

#StayHome When You Can & Fill Out Your Census Respond to the 2020 Census on line at www.my2020census.gov. Illustration: Regina Heimbruch

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CELEBRATING

OUR UNION

WOMEN International Women’s Month

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March-April 2020


OUR UNION WOMEN

International Women’s Day Celebration In recognition of International Women’s Month, scores of Union sisters gathered at 1199’s Manhattan headquarters on March 6 for an evening of culture, crafts, and celebration. The event, which is put on by the 1199SEIU Women’s Caucus, included a gorgeous, colorful procession of international women, music, dance, and, of course, Union solidarity. A highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Audrey Smith Campbell Awards, which recognize the exemplary work of the women leaders among 1199’s ranks. 1199 staffer Betel Manjura presented the prizes, noting that the awards “recognize the very best of what Union membership means.” The awards are named after the late Audrey Smith Campbell, who passed away during a historic strike at Kingsbridge NH in the Bronx. (Without health benefits during the strike, Smith Campbell suffered a fatal asthma attack.) This year’s recipients were Darlene Gates, a home health aide at Buffalo’s Weinberg Campus, and Crystal Perry, an LPN at Albany’s Glendale NH. “When I heard I was nominated I was so humbled to be given an award named after such an incredible woman,” said Perry. “Women’s work is so important. If I have something to give, I have a responsibility to give it. We have to stand together because there is so much against us.”

 Darlene Gates (left) and Crystal Perry (right) recipients of this year’s Audrey Smith Campbell Awards, which were presented at the Union’s International Women’s Month celebration in NYC on March 6. The award is named after nursing home worker Audrey Smith Campbell, who passed away during a historic strike in 2013.  1199 women representing our International Union in traditional dress at the March 6 event.

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WOMEN 1199’s hospital organizing unleashed power of working women.

When a Union of virtually allmale pharmacy workers began organizing hospital workers in 1959, they unleashed an army of working women leaders. Those leaders have helped to make 1199 the largest and most powerful healthcare union in the nation. Today, the executive committee of the Union is 2/3 women. After 1199 secured its first hospital contract at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, the leadership brought Monte African-American LPN Thelma Bowles onto its initial hospital organizing team. Others soon distinguished themselves. Gloria Arana, who hailed from Puerto Rico and worked in the laundry worker at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, had never been in a strike before the 1959 action. Soon though, her word became gospel at the Mt. Sinai laundry, and she helped lead the walkout during the decisive 1959 strike. Another highly respected leader of the hospital organizing campaign was Hilda Joquin, a dietary worker at Manhattan’s Beth Israel Medical Center. A native of Bermuda, Joquin’s firing rallied members to her defense and reinstatement. Later, a supervisor warned Joquin that she would be 22

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OUR UNION WOMEN

IN THE VANGUARD “ THIS IS SOMETHING THAT I HELPED BUILD.”

— Mattie Best

 Top, Hilda Joaquin was fired during the organizing campaign at Beth Israel Medical Center in NYC; her co-workers rallied around her and won her reinstatement.  Bottom: Coretta Scott King chaired 1199’s National Organizing committee and led seminal victories in Charleston, SC and Baltimore, MD.

fired if she continued to wear a Union button on her uniform. Staring the supervisor directly in the eye, Joquin took the button off her lapel and pinned it in her hair. And Doris Turner, 1199’s second president, started as a dietary clerk at Lenox Hill Hospital. The Union sisters are just a few examples of the thousands of 1199 women who over the years have come to the fore at their workplaces, communities and in political and legislative circles. Organizing campaigns produced leaders such as Mary Moultrie in South Carolina and Mattie Best in Rochester. 1199 sisters have held political office on the local and state levels. Others have gone on to lead other unions and organizations. For example, Jill Furillo, the recently retired executive director of the New York State Nurses Association, came out of the ranks to head 1199’s RN division. Throughout 1199’s history, advocates of women’s equality have stood with 1199 because they understood the intersectionality of race, class and gender. Coretta Scott King, who served as the honorary chair of 1199’s nationwide organizing campaign, which began less than

a year after Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, embodied this understanding and was a fierce advocate for the rights of all women. 1199 also led the way with contracts gains that were especially helpful to working women, such as the creation of expansive training programs and the only Child Care Fund in the U.S. labor movement. In the late 1980s, the Union mounted a campaign that galvanized support for some of the most poorly paid employees in the country—home care workers. The campaign eventually won a contract that called for a 42 percent raise over three years. The Union also formed a new division and today, 1199’s Home Care Division represents some 125,000 workers— overwhelmingly women—throughout the Union. In keeping with 1199’s history, many of these members (as well as those in other divisions) have emerged as leaders in the campaigns for immigrant rights and for a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Over the years, 1199’s Bread and Roses Cultural Program (B & R), has played a leading role in the fight for equal rights. In 1979, a play

with music, “I Just Wanted Someone to Know,” about the lives of working women, toured hospitals in three states for six weeks. And in the 1990s, B & R produced five series of “Women of Hope” posters, with accompanying biographical sketches and study guides. The powerful images were exhibited around the world in union halls, schools, public venues, and at the United Nations. In recent years, 1199 regions have hosted an array of International Women’s Month programs. The Union’s New Jersey Division partners with labor, political and community leaders to commemorate International Women’s Day on March 8. And 1199’s Women’s Caucus marks the day each year with a colorful parade of costumes worn by members and staff that highlights the Union’s great diversity. Mattie Best, the leader of Rochester’s Strong Memorial campaign, said that after she retired, she would return to Strong, stand outside and say to herself, “This is something that I helped build.” Today women lead the steadfast building of the nation’s largest and most influential healthcare union.

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The Purple Army Takes The Capital Florida caregivers at a February Lobby Day in Tallahassee. See Pages 14 and 15.

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