Our History: Fighting for Equity for Decades
Eddie Kay, a Lifelong Champion of Member’s Rights
We Took Our Fight to Albany
The Work We Do: Celebrating 1199 Social Workers A Journal of 1199SEIU March/April 2022
But we fight to win.
14 4 Massachusetts Home Care Members on the Move The Union welcomes new members and organizes vaccine and PPE clinics for existing members. 5 The President's Column Talking About a Revolution
6 Home Care Members Win Permanent Pay Increase Lawmakers in New York hear our demands. 9 Around the Regions NY Governor Lifts Pause on Nursing Home Reform; Member Vigil Moves Health Alliance; NJ Delegate to Return to Work after Picket; Strong Contracts Settled in MA and Upstate NY
@1199seiu www.1199seiu.org 2
1199 Magazine March-April 2022 Vol. 40 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
Editorial: We Choose Our Battles at 1199
12 Securing Affordable Housing Members are coming together to make sure that working people are not priced out of apartments. 14 Eddie Kay: An Appreciation The man known as the “Dean of labor organizers” always put the members first. 15 The Work We Do Celebrating Our Social Workers at NY Presbyterian Hospital 18 Home Care Members Victories By fighting collectively, 1199ers get more money in their pockets.
20 Florida Members Chalk up Political and Contract Wins Long hard battles for reform begin to pay off. 21 Our Retirees: Jacynth Stewart A former Union Delegate whose lifelong commitment to political action is far from waning. 22 Political Battles of the ‘60s Hold Lessons for Today The Albany victory that paved the path for the ‘Gold Standard’ pay and benefits for 1199 hospital workers in NYC.
Whenever 1199ers go to bat, whether it be against an employer who is testing our resolve, or to demand that our elected representatives to do what’s right for working people, we always do our homework first. We don’t make frivolous demands at the bargaining table, and we don’t call for legislation that is impossible to implement or enforce. When the Union campaigned for New York State nursing home reforms—after the cracks in the system were so tragically exposed at the height of the pandemic—we made sure that the laws we advocated would be easy for the state to implement. Two new laws were passed last year after a massive 1199 campaign. One calls for nursing home owners to spend 70% of their dollars toward direct care and make sure that 40% of that money is spent on the frontline staff. The other law requires that each nursing home resident must receive an average of 3.5 hours care per day. Whether or not an individual home is complying with the new rules can very easily be revealed by looking at data that these institutions are already routinely providing to state officials. And yet, these laws which were supposed to be implemented on January 1, were postponed for three months after industry lobbyists convinced the new Governor Kathy Hochul that they needed more time. It was only when 1199 invited the NY Attorney General, Letitia James, to our headquarters to hear first-hand accounts from our members about the consequences of insufficient spending on patient care—and held a press conference about it— that Governor Hochul changed her mind and implemented the reforms on April 1. At the same time Union members were maintaining the fight for nursing home reform, 1199 home care members recognized that the state had unexpectedly large tax revenues combined with an influx of federal funding. The need for home care is exploding throughout the state and yet there are not nearly enough workers to meet the demand because the wages have been kept far too low. Knowing that there was enough money in the NYS coffers to fund fair pay for home care, 1199ers pressed our case. When the Governor at first announced she would only provide funding for a one-off bonus for home care workers in her budget, the Union launched a statewide campaign. After months of concerted lobbying by members who travelled repeatedly to Albany, combined with a farreaching advertising blitz, the Fair Pay for Home Care campaign won permanent raises for NY home care members of at least 20 per cent. Home care members, some of whom had never spoken publicly before, and in some cases didn’t feel comfortable speaking in English, got up to the microphone again and again and made their voices heard.
George Gresham secretary treasurer
Maria Castaneda senior executive vice presidents
Yvonne Armstrong Veronica TurnerBiggs executive vice presidents
Jacqueline Alleyne Lisa Brown Tim Foley Patrick Forde Todd Hobler Antonio Howell Maria Kercado Brian Morse Joyce Neil Rona Shapiro Milly Silva Gregory Speller Nadine Williamson editor
Sarah Wilson art direction and design
Maiarelli Studio photographer
Kim Wessels contributors
Marlishia Aho Mindy Berman April Ezzell Jenna Jackson JJ Johnson Desiree Taylor
Home care members, some of whom had never spoken publicly before, and in some cases didn’t feel comfortable speaking in English, got up to the microphone again and again and made their voices heard.
And it is not just members in New York who are feeling our power. Nursing home members in Florida convinced their legislature to pass a budget including a $15 minimum wage for all Florida’s nursing home workers. Let’s not forget, we are just over two years into an unprecedented pandemic, which took a particularly heavy toll on frontline healthcare workers who make up our Union’s membership. The pressures that many of us faced at work were tougher than we could ever have imagined before COVID-19. There was also the constant fear of bringing the contagion home to our families. But instead of bowing to this pressure, 1199ers channeled our anger into action and raised our voices louder than ever.
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 498 Seventh Ave, New York, NY 10018 Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to 1199 Magazine, 498 Seventh Ave, New York, NY 10018
The illustration for this Editorial was drawn by Maria Skliarova who was recently forced to flee her home in Kharkiv, Ukraine. She is currently living as a refugee in Poltava. 1199 Magazine
Massachusetts Home Care Members
Talking About a Revolution
On the Move
It won’t sound like a whisper.
The President’s Column by George Gresham
The Union welcomes new members and organizes vaccine and PPE clinics for existing members.
Massachusetts members welcomed new home care members into their ranks, when 400 workers from 10 Elara Caring sites voted to join 1199SEIU in mid-March. These new members joined nearly 2,500 Elara members across MA and New York. Through a free and fair process, agreed between 1199SEIU and Elara Caring, workers were able to decide for themselves in a non-coercive environment, free from intimidation, whether to join the union. The newest Elara home health members are located in: Lee, Chicopee, Newton, Leominster,
Bellingham, New Bedford, Easton, Byfield and Tewksbury. “It is a very special day for me and my colleagues to finally have a union,” said Rosa Watson, home care worker at Elara Caring, Worcester, MA. “It is a great achievement to now negotiate for the training, pay and benefits that allow us to stay in the field and meet the needs of our clients.” The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted longstanding issues within the health and long-term care system that remains overstretched and underfunded – devaluing and threatening the health and well-
“It is a very special day for me and my colleagues to finally have a union.” – Rosa Watson, home care worker at Elara Caring, Worcester, MA
Mery Davis (left) and Maria Allejandra Alessio – Home Care members attending the clinic
being of the workers, who are largely people of color and immigrants, who are caring for our most vulnerable citizens. Karen Francis, based in Ware, MA, previously worked as a police and fire dispatcher but lost her position during the pandemic. Eight months ago, she returned to home care work, saying: "I wanted to personalize my work. It feels different to care for people in their homes, it was a different way I could help. I've been pro-union all my life.” In February, thousands of existing home care members who are employed directly by the state-run health provider, Mass Health, were required to get a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Union swung into action to facilitate this process for these home care members, known as Personal Care Attendants (PCAs) and organized six separate booster clinics in Brockton, Springfield, Lawrence, Boston, New Bedford, and Worcester. In all, the clinics were able to administer hundreds of booster shots. Organizers also made sure to have the most effective K95 masks available for PCAs to take away in order to stay safe both around their clients and on public transportation. Since the onset of the pandemic, the Union has distributed more than 5 million pieces of PPE, including masks and gloves, and established partnerships across the state to ensure workers have access to vaccinations.
In 2011, Occupy Wall Street shook up the established political order by sharply raising the question of income and wealth inequality. “We are the 99 percent!” was the battle cry, introducing the idea that an economy dominated by billionaires while most Americans are living hand-to-mouth cannot be considered a just society. In the 11 years since Occupy, the gap between the ultra-rich and the rest of us has only grown wider. Time magazine estimates that since the Reagan years, the top one percent of earners have taken a whopping $50 trillion from the bottom 90 percent using a combination of anti-labor laws and a distorted tax system which favors the rich. This has taken place under both Republican and Democratic governments, although the GOP has been far more vicious in attacks on working people and far less willing to challenge the ploys of the wealthy. The federal minimum wage remains $7.25 per hour, 13 years after it was set. In 1965, the average CEO made 21 times the average worker; today the average CEO—in other countries they are called “oligarchs”— makes 361 times what the average worker earns. In 2019, the three richest men in the country—Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet— held more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of Americans put together. Which brings us to the issue of health disparities, including disparities for low-income healthcare workers. Low-wage workers and their families, disproportionately people of color, suffer from far higher rates of asthma, hypertension, diabetes, and other COVID-19 comorbidities; yet they are also far less likely to have health insurance, and far more likely to work in “essential” industries with the highest rates of coronavirus exposure and transmission. Imagine how much
safer, healthier, and empowered all American workers might be, if that $50 trillion taken from the bottom percent had been paid out in wages instead of being funneled into corporate profits and the offshore accounts of the super-rich. Many of the worst abuses take place in the home care and nursing home industries, where profiteering is increasingly rife. Amongst the lowest paid are the caregivers who work in people’s homes taking care of the elderly and people with severe disabilities. There are nearly 2.5 million home care workers in our country. Most have no union and work at minimum wage—again $7.25 per hour—or not much more. And in for-profit nursing homes, management routinely engages in double-dipping. Instead of paying loyal and experienced union workers what they deserve, many of these institutions set up staffing agencies, which enable them to pay nonunionized staff with tax-payer dollars from Medicaid. The institution can then extract a proportion of the Medicaid dollars destined for wages in the form of profit for their staffing agencies. Many of the home care agencies and nursing home employers—and the managed care companies that pay them—are for-profit, using people’s need for assistance with the basic tasks of living as a source of gain. This is simply immoral. 1199 home care workers in New York just came together, fought hard with community allies, and won a 20 per cent increase. But we need to continue to fight. Even after our wage increase is phased in, home care workers will only make $36,000 a year if they average a 40-hour work week. This is a disgrace. These dedicated caregivers are saving lives
It's time for us to think about how we launch a massive nonviolent campaign to eliminate profiteering in the healthcare system.
and providing comfort for our most vulnerable elderly and frail people. They should be making, at least, a modest $25 hourly. It may seem wishful thinking to believe that caregivers now making minimum wage or barely more could essentially double their hourly earnings, from $12 to $25. But it is intolerable to continue to allow these heroic workers to live in poverty year after year after year. It's time for us to think about how we launch a massive non-violent campaign to eliminate profiteering in the healthcare system. Just because the system is structured to keep caregivers in poverty doesn’t mean we need to passively accept that structure, especially since homecare is virtually entirely paid for by Medicaid, i.e., public dollars. Eliminating the managed care companies—middlemen who take money out of the system—would be a good first step. Please send your thoughts to me at the magazine. Because one thing is clear; the status quo is unacceptable and cannot be allowed to stand. You can email ideas to: firstname.lastname@example.org or drop them off at union headquarters, marked “Attn: 1199 Magazine, Editor”
Home Care Members Win Permanent
Lawmakers in New York hear our demands. 1199SEIU home care members and their community allies across New York State were celebrating a victory in early April when Governor Kathy Hochul and legislative leaders Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins announced that provision for a permanent pay increase would be included in the state budget. Extra cash was also allocated to give financially insecure safety net hospitals the underpinning they need to look after the state most vulnerable citizens. For frontline home care members in New York, winning a $3/hr increase over minimum wage will not only have a significant impact on their lives, but it also lays the groundwork for similar political campaigns in other states. By October 2023, NY home care workers will see their pay increase by more than $500 a month on a 40hour week. On hearing that Governor Hochul had responded to members demands made in their Fair Pay for Home Care campaign, Novelette Cross-Smith, 1199SEIU homecare 6
Members join community activists for a March 29, press conferences in Albany to demand fair pay for homecare. Home Care members keep up the pressure on Governor Kathy Hochul. Opposite page: Members form a heart outside the Capitol Building to urge lawmakers to “Have a Heart for Home Care” on February 14.
“ We take so much pride in our jobs and know our importance in our clients’ lives; we are thankful to finally be getting the recognition that our line of work is essential and deserving of decent compensation.” – Novelette Cross-Smith 1199SEIU home care worker with People Care Homecare in Manhattan, NY
worker with 22 years of service at People Care in Manhattan, NY, said: “Today marks the start of a new chapter for homecare workers like me, and I am thrilled to be receiving a raise that will allow me to better support my family. We take so much pride in our jobs and know our importance in our clients’ lives; we are thankful to finally be getting the recognition that our line of work is essential and deserving of decent compensation.”
Home care workers from all over NYS boarded buses to Albany throughout the budget debate to press their case. In most instances, that meant travelling for at least five hours round trip, often in freezing weather. They joined allies from the disability community and advocates for senior citizens, who understand that reliable home care services depend on fair 1199 Magazine
Florida Maryland Massachusetts New Jersey New York Washington, D.C.
Around the Regions
Home care workers at the Faith For Fair Pay for Home Care press conference at Union Headquarters February 24.
New York Attorney General, Letitia James (seated) surrounded by nursing home members and officers at Union headquarters.
“ It's a financial challenge for us to pay rent, provide food for our family, and the multiple trains and bus fares just to get to work.” – Iris Smith home care member Premier agency, Brooklyn
“They have revealed to me conditions in some of these nursing homes which are appalling,”
Members gather in Albany with Rev. Peter Cook, Executive Director, New York State Council of Churches. Getting ready for lobby visits at the Capitol on March 23.
NY Governor Lifts Pause on Nursing Home Reform
Delrisa SewellHenry poses with 1199SEIU President George Gresham after speaking at the press conference held at Union Headquarters on March 22.
wages for home care workers. Taking action to ensure our elected representatives do the right thing for working people has been one of the hallmarks of 1199 since the early days. Back in 1963, a combination of relentless lobbying, expert public relations and strong member unity convinced Nelson Rockefeller, the then Governor of New York to sign a law granting collective bargaining rights to voluntary hospitals in New York City. (See “Political Battles of the ‘60s” page 22-23) Now nearly 60 years later, home care members have formed their own united force to ensure that tax money collected to protect the most vulnerable in society, actually does the job it was intended to do. Rallying, face-to-face lobbying 8
of elected representatives and a significant investment in advertising to generate statewide pressure, all combined to make the Fair Pay for Home Care campaign a success. “I’m so thankful to hear that legislative leaders took up our cause and the Governor decided to support us,” said Salina Person, Home Health Aide, Rochester, NY, “We work really hard and care a whole lot. We just need to be able to support ourselves so that we can continue this work that is so important.”It is not just their own interests that members were fighting for – but also for the needs of their clients and for those who are not able to access help. As the 1199 Magazine goes to press, almost 17 per cent of home care jobs in NYS remain unfilled. With the high turnover of caregivers
that was mainly caused by low wages, researchers were estimating that by 2028 the state would have had a deficit of nearly one million home care positions. “Right now, there is a shortage of home care workers. Homecare workers are disappearing because they simply cannot afford to do the work. It's a financial challenge for us to pay rent, provide food for our family, and the multiple trains and bus fares just to get to work,” explains Iris Smith, a home care member who works at the Premier agency in Brooklyn. “Home care workers are frontline essential workers,” she adds, “We provide care that makes it possible for seniors and the disabled to maintain their independence, dignity, and respect in their homes in a safe environment where they can thrive.”
As the 1199 Magazine was going to press, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced that she would finally lift the pause on nursing home legislation that 1199SEIU members had fought long and hard to get signed into law last year. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed decades-old problems of staffing and quality in many nursing homes across the state, especially for-profit organizations. Spurred by the activism of 1199SEIU nursing home caregivers, advocates and family members, the State Legislature passed significant industry reform which was to go into effect on Jan. 1, but had been delayed for three months by the Governor’s Executive Order. Hochul’s change of heart came after the New York Attorney General, Letitia James, visited the 1199SEIU headquarters to hear first-hand accounts from nursing home members of how understaffing was affecting patient care. “They have revealed to me conditions in some of these nursing homes which are appalling,” James said. “They are working double and triple shifts. They indicated to me that some patients’ needs are not being met because they are under-resourced.”
One of the staffing measures that the Governor postponed following nursing home industry lobbying required homes to hire enough employees to provide patients with an average of three-anda-half hours of clinical care each day. Another required nursing homes to spend at least 40% of revenue on staff that provide direct patient care. Both of these laws finally went into effect on April 1. Julie Martinez, licensed practical nurse (LPN) at Dunkirk Rehab and Nursing Center in Western New York, explained why reform was needed: “We are a small 40-bed facility and one aide and one nurse for up to 40 residents makes it impossible to give residents the care they deserve. If I’m doing CPR, who is opening the door for the paramedics? And who is caring for the other residents? The most dedicated healthcare worker doesn’t want to work here, because you feel like you cannot give the care the residents need, and it feels terrible.” 1199SEIU nursing home members can check how close or far their institution is to complying with the new laws here: https://www. nursinghomestaffingaccountability.com/
1199 Celebrates International Women’s Day The Women’s Caucus at the union pulled together an evening zoom event on March 4 to honor the strength and courage of their sisters. The guest speaker was Maria Velazquez, a retired home care organizer whose son, Jon-Adrian, was released from prison last September after being wrongly incarcerated for almost 24 years. She described her decades-long campaign to prove his innocence, which involved working with Mothers United Against Wrongful Conviction, actor Martin Sheen and television journalists.
Maria Velazquez, retired 1199 home care organizer.
Around the Regions
Health Alliance first contract On February 17, in the driving rain on a dark night, 1199SEIU members held a candlelight vigil in front of Westchester Medical Center/ HealthAlliance Hospital in Kingston, NY. Lindsey Bradford, a Cardiac Care Monitor, said it was time to shine the light on the risks to quality care caused by short staffing. Contract negotiations, aimed at helping to retain and recruit staff were going nowhere. As February approached, more than a year of bargaining had gone by and management still would not acknowledge the contributions and value of the 190 service workers who, back in 2020, had voted to join 1199SEIU. In negotiations, management’s wage proposals didn’t bring wages up to even market rates and they insisted on maintaining the hospital’s expensive health insurance, refusing to consider 1199’s health and pension funds. Meanwhile, management’s ability to appropriately staff the hospital was at an alltime low; staff were leaving and new workers didn’t stay long, Lindsey Bradford, a Cardiac Care Monitor, said “I work in health care, and I can’t even afford health care. I’ve been working at this hospital for ten years and I work without a lunch break or bathroom breaks due to shortages on staff. We can’t get new people in the door because they can work for more money elsewhere. I work 12-hr. nights/four nights a week and I still can’t afford health care or braces for my kids. The hospital needs to stop stalling on this contract. Now.” Gabe Valles, a clinical technician said the contract negotiations also coincided with the pandemic, which has caused more dangerous working conditions and staff shortages. “We see a larger influx of patients, longer wait times, and staff are leaving the hospital in droves,” he said. Things were looking up at negotiations the day after the vigil. For the first time, WMC/HealthAlliance management said they would look into the 1199 National Benefit Health Fund (NBF) and indicated they understood member priorities. 10
Damian Rivera (right) with his father and sister at the picket.
Ten percent Wage Growth Negotiated
1199 Delegate to Return to Work after Picket
“I work 12-hr. nights/four nights a week and I still can’t afford health care or braces for my kids. The hospital needs to stop stalling on this contract. Now.” – Lindsey Bradford Cardiac Care Monitor
Damian Rivera, an 1199 Delegate and CNA at Complete Care at Marcella Center in Burlington Twp., was fired without just cause the day after he and his co-workers attempted to bring health and safety concerns to management. When management later refused to comply with an arbitrator’s decision to reinstate Rivera, members staged an informational picket in protest on March 25. A week later, just as this issue was going to press, management backed down and agreed to reinstate Rivera with full back pay and benefits. The dispute began on January 13, when Rivera and about ten fellow workers at Marcella Center tried to meet with the nursing home administrator to discuss urgent health and safety issues and other work-related concerns. These included concerns over lax Covid protocols, short staffing, poor lighting, and icy conditions in the parking lot, lack of hazard pay, and management’s failure to approve employee time-off requests.
The next morning, Rivera received a phone call from the administrator telling him that his services were no longer needed. He had worked at the facility for 22 years and had a crystal-clear employment record. To resolve the issue, 1199SEIU and Complete Care Management agreed to a final and binding arbitration process. On February 10, the arbitrator determined that Rivera was unjustly terminated and ordered his immediate reinstatement, with full back pay and benefits. Despite the final and binding nature of the arbitration procedure that both parties had agreed to, Complete Care had refused to abide by the arbitrator’s decision for almost two months. Complete Care Management is a for-profit nursing home chain that became the largest operator of nursing homes in New Jersey after many private-equity backed acquisitions during the pandemic, including Marcella.
Massachusetts members voted overwhelmingly to ratify new four-year contracts in February with Cape Cod Healthcare institutions, which will include a minimum of 10 percent wage growth over the life of the agreement. The four contracts will cover frontline workers at Cape Cod Hospital, Falmouth Hospital, Cape Cod Healthcare Lab Services and Cape Cod Human Services. “This is an enormous victory for our members,” said 1199SEIU Executive Vice President Tim Foley. “Our members drove home the message that Cape Cod healthcare workers have worked tirelessly during the last two years, and they deserve to be paid fairly, and treated with respect. These contracts do that.” Under each of the agreements, the workers with the lowest wages will experience a greater wage growth in percentage terms due to annual step movement and other adjustments. “The last two years have shown people on Cape Cod – and across the country – how important these frontline jobs are,” said Anderson Ricardo, 1199SEIU bargaining committee member and ICU Nursing Assistant at Cape Cod Hospital. “Every healthcare worker deserves fair pay, good benefits, and respect. I was happy to be a part of these negotiations.” Elsewhere in Massachusetts, at Saugus Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, north of Boston, a strike was narrowly averted when management agreed to come back to the table. Members had made their voices heard when they held informational pickets outside the institution in February and March, when negotiations were stalled. If a settlement cannot be reached with fair wages that allow workers to care for their own families and protect quality resident care, another strike notice will be issued.
Upstate members mount one-day strike at Ascension Living nursing home near Niagara Falls.
“The last two years have shown people on Cape Cod – and across the country – how important these frontline jobs are.” – Anderson Ricardo, an ICU Nursing Assistant
Cape Cod Hospital members celebrate contract victory.
Lewiston Nursing Home Members Settle Contract after One-Day Strike The bargaining committee representing 150 members at Ascension Living’s Our Lady of Peace in Lewiston, near Niagara Falls, NY, reached a tentative agreement with management including new higher starting wage rates on April 1, after a walkout. “They thought that we wouldn’t participate in the strike, they thought that we wouldn’t stand up for ourselves,” says Nina Calandrelli, an 1199 CNA at the facility. Ascension Living sent letters to workers threatening a five-day unpaid lockout if the strike went ahead. Union leaders know that locking out workers beyond the one-day strike is illegal. “This is another way for a large out-of-state company, like Ascension Living to intimidate workers in a small rural community who are only trying to provide the best care to their residents,” says Grace Bogdanove, 1199SEIU Vice-President. Ascension Living at Our Lady of Peace caregivers have been working without a contract since last December, when their 16month contract expired. Ascension Living is a subsidiary of Ascension, the largest Catholic Health based system in the US. 1199 Magazine
Securing Affordable Housing Members are coming together to make sure that working people are not priced out of apartments.
Finding and holding onto an affordable place to live has never been easy, especially when rents are rising faster than wages in many U.S. cities. 1199SEIU home care members have been facing some of the worst challenges of all. And with inflation creeping up and many agencies cutting back on hours, it is harder than ever. Tania Arroyo, a home care worker with the R.A.I.N. (Regional Aid for Interim Needs) agency in the Bronx was no longer able to afford the rent on her one-bedroom Washington Heights apartment when she and her boyfriend split up. With the help of her Union organizer, she managed to break her lease and she was due to move into a room in her sister’s apartment at the end of March, when 1199 Magazine paid her a visit. “I’ve been selling off my furniture and all I’m left with from now until the end of the month is my bed. The sofa is gone,” said Arroyo, who has a 19-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son living in the Dominican Republic capital, Santo Domingo, who she helps to support. “I make sure I get to 12
visit them every year,” she said. Recognizing that the inability to find secure, affordable housing is a problem that effects hundreds, if not thousands of members, the Union is pressing lawmakers at the national, New York State and City levels to regulate the housing market. U.S. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke who represents District 9 in Brooklyn and is a long-time political ally of 1199, was due to reintroduce her Affordable Housing and Area Median Income (AMI) Fairness Act to Congress.
It has long been clear that something needs to change because affordable housing calculations based on AMI, have ended up putting Scarsdale in the same income category as the South Bronx. What this means is that what is considered ‘affordable’ is not based on the earnings of the average worker, as it should be. By adding much more wealthy neighborhoods to the mix, what is deemed affordable becomes distorted. Clarke’s bill aims to cut rents in subsidized developments in New York City by more than a third.
At the New York State level, members are joining the fight to support ‘Good Cause Eviction’ legislation. During the height of the pandemic, there was a moratorium on evictions to help tenants who had lost their source of income. Since that moratorium expired this January, hundreds of thousand of people across the state are facing housing court. The proposed legislation would expand tenant protections to currently unregulated housing, ensuring that tenants cannot be subjected to unreasonable rent increases or evicted without good cause. As well as campaigning to change housing laws, 1199SEIU also makes sure to offer practical help to individual members who find themselves in housing need. When Tracey Ann Patterson was working as a home health aide with the Partners in Care agency in Queens, she and her three children found herself with nowhere to go when their house burned down. Because they lost their home in a fire, Patterson and her children were
“ If this union were not available to me, I would never have been able to move into my apartment.” – Tracey Ann Patterson, a home health member with Partners in Care
Tracey Ann Patterson used an 1199SEIU Credit Union loan to finally secure affordable housing. Tania Arroyo, a home care worker member with R.A.I.N. agency.
not technically considered homeless. This means they had to live in a modified NYC Housing Preservation and Development shelter because they were ‘displaced’. With fewer of these shelters throughout the city, Patterson and her children ended up in Brownsville, Brooklyn. She and her family were tied up in further red tape when she tried to move out of the shelter and into permanent, regulated housing that she could afford on what she earned from home care. In order to move in, she had to come up with a $1,200 deposit within one week or lose the apartment. Social services told her it would take them two weeks to cut her a subsidy check. But with the help of a rapid loan from the 1199SEIU Credit Union, Patterson was able to get the keys to her apartment in mid-March 2020, just before New York City shut down for the pandemic. “I’m so grateful for the union,” says Patterson, “If this union were not available to me, I would never have been able to move into my apartment.” 1199 Magazine
future. The boss fears the Union in the shop more than he fears the staffers and officials on 43rd Street (the former Union headquarters).” It is fair to say that the Union victories in Long Island and Queens during his tenure changed the lives of tens of thousands of members and their families, when they negotiated strong healthcare and pension benefits for the first time. But Kay was never one to take credit and made sure that members were always front and center during any victory lap. He applied the lessons of rankand-file leadership in his work with many unions after he left 1199. They included The Laborers Union, Transit Workers Local 100, Transit Union bus drivers on Staten Island, Asbestos Workers, District Council 1707 non-profit workers in New York and others.
An Appreciation The man known as the “dean of labor organizers” always put the members first. With the death of Edward (Eddie) Kay on Feb. 15, the progressive movement lost one of its most celebrated organizers. Kay stepped down from his post of 1199 Executive Vice President in 1999, but continued non-stop activity as a union consultant, educator and organizing guru until his illness and death at age 89. Kay began his 1199 career in 1962 as a Brooklyn drugstore clerk. During the stormy 1960s, he became a delegate, helped organize 1199’s first Rite Aid store, marched for civil rights and led a movement within the Union to oppose the Vietnam War. He joined the 1199 staff in 1967 and within eight months became the acting director of the Hospital Division Queens-Long Island area. The area soon garnered the reputation of being among the best organized with the most savvy and militant members. Kay pointed to his mentor, Eliot Godoff, the leader of the 1199 14
hospital organizing campaign, as an example of sound and effective organizing techniques. In addition to doubling the number of 1199 nursing homes on Long Island and bringing in the Union’s first RNs, Kay helped lead the 1972 campaign to organize wealthy and powerful Presbyterian Hospital. Many of the delegates he helped train rose to the highest ranks within the Union. He also helped lead the historic rank-and-file Save Our Union campaign that won control of the Union in 1986 and returned 1199 to its progressive path. Kay’s statement upon retirement summed up his organizing philosophy: “In the long run, victories are only victories when members have really fought for them and feel ownership. Every time this is not done, your institutions become less strong and less able to fight in the
Eddie Kay, addresses the membership.
“The boss fears the Union in the shop more than he fears the staffers and officials on 43rd St.” – Eddie Kay, former 1199SEIU Executive Vice President
Kay was also a crack negotiator and political operative. “He’s the best negotiator I’ve ever seen,” said Inez Murphy, a communications clerk at United Presbyterian Residence in Woodbury, Long Island, in an 1199 News story about Kay’s retirement. In the same article, the then 1199 President, Dennis Rivera, noted, “Without Eddie’s leadership, we would not be where we are today.” When news of Kay’s death spread, tributes poured in online and in publications throughout the nation. Virtually all mentioned his organizing achievements. Among those paying tribute was former New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio. “The Labor Movement Has Lost a Great Organizer” is the headline of a tribute article written by David Kranz, former director of 1199’s Professional and Technical Dept. and a leader of the 1980s Save Our Union movement. The piece in Portside.org touches on many of Kay’s countless accomplishments. Kranz concludes: “Eddie’s legacy included training a whole generation of leaders, both in 1199 and other unions.” His influence will certainly live on at 1199. Kay is survived by his long-time devoted partner, 1199 VP Vladimir Fortunny.
OUR SOCIAL WORKERS THE WORK WE DO:
Whether they work in hospitals, detox clinics, nursing homes or even legal services organizations, 1199SEIU social workers perform an essential role in the health care system. By approaching patients and clients in a way that considers the whole community in which they live—not just immediate medical needs—social workers are vital to securing the best long-term health outcomes. 1199 represents more than 2,000 of these professionals in a wide variety of settings. As part of the nationwide celebration of National Social Work month in March, 1199 Magazine caught up with a few of the social workers at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan.
1. Sometimes patients want to return home after a hospital stay, but their medical or mental health condition makes that impossible. “As social workers, we help to manage that transition,” explains 1199 Delegate Lauren Caballero (above right), who has worked as a Social Worker in General Medicine for 19 years. It can be very difficult because most patients who leave the hospital in need of home care do not qualify for Medicaid or Medicare, which only pays for a few weeks. “So, we have to hope that the family takes over,” says Caballero, adding: “If their needs are not being met at home, they will end up coming back into the hospital.”
“People are sicker and are getting discharged quicker than they used to be,” says Doris Joy (above left), a Social Work In-Patient Floater, with 22 years’ experience. “It is our job to make sure there are supports in place when the patient gets home. We might have someone come in and get a cancer diagnosis that means they will not be able to work at their old job anymore. Everything from showing people how to access grants to help them get by, to checking the hours at the local pharmacy falls within the social worker’s role.”
THE WORK WE DO
“ The two enemies to transplants are infection and rejection,” – Anne Lawler Social Worker Kidney Transplant Unit
2. “The two enemies to transplants are infection and rejection,” says Anne Lawler, a Social Worker on the Kidney Transplant Unit, and it is her job to help prevent either of these problems arising. Dedicated postoperative care is crucial, as Lawler has learned over her 31 years in post. “I recently had a patient who was only 30 years old, who had come to the U.S. from Thailand as a child. He had no family here, but he had a very closeknit circle of friends.” Lawler made sure she learned enough about the characters of the people in this group to feel comfortable signing off on the procedure. “They turned out to be extremely generous and kind. But they could have left him high and dry.” 3. “Being a social worker in a hospital is different from on the outside,” says Lynette Williams (middle) a Social Worker in Outpatient Oncology for 20 years. “We have to learn medical jargon so we can explain to patients what they will be facing when they get home.” Working with cancer patients poses specific challenges, adds Angela Heller (left), an Oncology Social Worker of 35 years standing. “We help people to speak to their children at the ends of their lives and support them through guardianship decisions. As social workers, we see patients as not just a diagnosis, but as people, each with a life outside of the hospital that we need to respect and consider.”
Social Worker Lisa Thomas (right) recalls the pandemic when the 16
“ Every mother feels a sense of responsibility. I am here to help them realize that it is not their fault.”
In-patient Oncology department also took in COVID-19 patients because the hospital needed the beds. “I remember when a patient died on our ward, and I drove her belongings to the apartment of her 94-year-old mother, who was unable to leave her house because of the pandemic.” 4. Winsome Sewell (left), a Pediatric Pulmonary Social Worker for 34 years, started her job the same day as Irene Sprung (right), a Social Worker in the NICU who works with infant cardiac
patients. She says: “Every mother feels a sense of responsibility. I am here to help them realize that it is not their fault.” Sewell, who works mainly with cystic fibrosis patients, recalls: “When I first started in 1988, these young people weren’t living past 20. But treatment has improved greatly over the past 30 years. I provide them with long-term emotional support as they learn to manage their condition. Also, practical help, like finding grants to pay for medication that is not covered by insurance.”
– Winsome Sewell Pediatric Pulmonary Social Worker
“Home care workers are health care workers who provide the critical care our clients need. Our work is important and should be taken seriously,” Francisco A. Javier Castillo, an 1199 home care worker. Wage Fund will now enable members to receive compensation. Claim forms will be mailed to current and former bargaining unit members by Arden Claims Service at the end of April 2022. “Home care workers are health care workers who provide the critical care our clients need. Our work is important and should be taken seriously,” says Francisco A. Javier Castillo, an 1199 home care worker, “I look forward to filing my claim and receiving my payment.”
HOME CARE MEMBER
By fighting collectively, 1199ers get more money in their pockets.
In a historic decision covering more than 100,000 current and former 1199SEIU home care members, a New York City arbitrator has ordered 42 agencies to fund a $32 million Special Wage Fund to compensate members for wages owed for sleep and meal interruptions on 24-hour cases and other wage violations. This decision marks the culmination of a legal battle which began in 2019 when 1199 filed a class action grievance against 42 agencies.
The grievance was made possible because 1199 home care workers negotiated language in their collective bargaining agreements (CBA) allowing them to pursue wage and hour violations through arbitration. This meant that workers could be represented by the union in these cases and did not have to pay for lawyers of their own. Before 2016, most employers did not have procedures in place to pay for sleep and meal interruptions on
24-hour shifts. In 2015, the Union negotiated language in the CBA to ensure such procedures were in place. Since then, the Union has worked hard to ensure that workers know the procedures for reporting sleep and meal interruptions. The grievance was filed to seek compensation for those times when workers were not compensated properly on 24-hour shifts, as well as when workers did not receive travel time between cases and other wage violations. The Special
More than 5,000 home care workers at Concepts of Independence, who voted to join 1199 last year, were also celebrating their first contract which includes immediate bonuses of up to $500, with a reopener in May 2022 to discuss wage increases following the publication of the state budget. Members at Concepts will also benefit from the 1199SEIU Home Care Industry Education Fund, which enables workers to develop skills, improve their English-language proficiency, prepare for the U.S. naturalization test, earn a high school equivalency diploma, prepare for college entrance exams and attend college. From Manhattan to Plattsburgh, in Upstate NY, workers at Concepts provide personal care and other services to people living with disabilities and others that can direct their own care through New York’s Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP). The program allows workers to provide self-directed care for consumers, including relatives and friends, which means they can remain in the comfort and safety of their homes and maintain their independence and selfdetermination. Arleen Angus, a Concepts member who travelled to Albany in February with fellow 1199ers campaigning for a statewide increase in home care workers pay, said: “This job really isn’t easy and we deserve to be making more money. But I know we can accomplish a lot more if we work together, than what any of us could do individually.”
Special Wage Fund Home Care Agencies ABC Health Service Registry AccentCare of NY, Inc. Alliance for Health Alliance Home Services Azor Home Care Bronx Jewish Community Council Home Attendant Services Bushwick Stuyvesant Heights Home Attendant CABS Home Care Care at Home Chinese-American Planning Council Home Attendant Program, Inc. CIDNY Cooperative Home Care Family Home Care Services of Brooklyn and Queens FEGS Home Care First Chinese Presbyterian CAHA Home Care Services For Independent Living Home Health Management New York Foundation for Senior Citizens Home Attendant Partners in Care Personal Touch Home Care of N.Y. Personal Touch Home Care of Long Island, Personal Touch Home Care of Westchester People Care, Inc. Premier Home Health Care Prestige Home Attendant d/b/a All Season Prestige Home Care Priority Home Care PSC Community Services, Inc. RAIN Home Attendant Services, Inc. Region Care Richmond Home Needs, RiseBoro Homecare, Inc. Riverspring Licensed Home Care Agency Rockaway Home Attendant Saint Nicholas Human Support Corp. School Settlement Home Attendant Corp. Special Touch Home Care Services, Inc. Stella Orton Home Care Sunnyside Home Care Project Sunnyside Citywide Home Care United Jewish Council of the East Side Home Attendant Services Wartburg – No Place Like Home Care Members whose employer is listed here can call the hotline number at 1-833-706-1199 with questions about the arbitration
A former Union Delegate whose lifelong commitment to political action is far from waning.
Florida Members Chalk up
Political and Contract Wins Long hard battles for reform are beginning to pay off.
Florida members have been celebrating both legislative and contract wins in the early part of this year, which were a long time coming. Following intense lobbying in the state capital, Tallahassee, 1199ers convinced the legislature to pass a budget including a $15 minimum wage for all Florida nursing home workers. Starting in October of this year, nursing homes will receive specially ear-marked Medicaid money that can only be spent on raising nursing home worker wages to a minimum of $15. This wage floor applies to all nursing home workers, including CNAs, dietary, housekeeping and laundry workers. This would not have happened but for the determined 20
lobbying of 1199 nursing home members in Tallahassee year in and year out, telling their personal stories and moving legislators. This isn’t the end of this battle, with $15 an hour being seen as the first step on way to further increases, with quality, affordable benefits. “This is a major victory that we accomplished together,” said longtime CNA Sophia Colley, who is an 1199SEIU Delegate from Titusville, Florida, “It’s a reminder that when healthcare workers unite through our union and fight, we win.” At the same time, Florida 1199ers who work at Tenet hospitals have been able to secure the largest
“This is a major victory that we accomplished together. It’s a reminder that when healthcare workers unite through our union and fight, we win.” – Sophia Colley CNA Delegate, Titusville, Florida
increase they have received in many years. The agreement with Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, Good Samaritan Medical Center and West Boca Medical Center also addresses inequity by introducing wage scales based on years of experience. 1199SEIU Delegates have been advocating for wage scales for both ancillary and RNs over many years of negotiations, and it is a significant step forward in lifting up experienced employees who have been making less than or the same as new hires. Most employees will receive the maximum yearly raise until reaching the appropriate place on the scale based on years of experience with no caps.
Florida members rally for better pay in Tallahassee.
For Jacynth Stewart, political awareness was nurtured from a very early age. Growing up in Jamaica, Stewart recalls: “My parents used to take me to all their political meetings as a young child and I would sit on their lap and play pretend like I was voting,” the now retired 1199SEIU Delegate remembers, “I would put my finger in the ink and stamp it on a piece of paper.” Stewart moved to the U.S. as a teenager, finished school, and started working in the kitchens at Beth Israel Medical Center in 1984. “During my first week we went on strike. I was like, this can’t happen now, I just got here! I told my Mom about it, and she said, ‘don’t cross any picket line with 1199!’ “So, I was out on the line, 47 days, and every other weekend. I even brought my daughter with me, who was three at the time. I got threats from management saying they were going to terminate me, but the union said, ‘don’t worry about that.’ That was my first experience of 1199.” Later that same year she was elected as a Union Delegate. The Union nurtured Stewart’s natural leadership and enthusiasm for education, justice and advocacy –- supporting her to become Chair of both the Delegates Body of Beth Israel and the Jobs Committee. “I liked the Jobs Committee because we got to hear appeals from members. If they got suspended or fired, if they had issues going on with the contract, we would hear them first and decide if it needed to go to the appeal board for arbitration. We also were there to make sure the contract we had was enforced. It felt good to keep
management on their toes, telling them they can’t just implement what they want or change this or that, you’ve got to follow the contract. “When members didn’t know their rights or what was in the contract, we got to educate them. And we were there to monitor who came into the hospital – we made sure they were union members and if they weren’t, we’d sign them up.” Stewart also helped members during nursing home mergers, assisted organizers in preparing members for bargaining, and often went to Albany and DC to do lobbying. Since retiring as a Diet Clerk at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in 2017, Stewart has not cut back on her union activism. Instead, she has taken on new roles with 1199’s retirees. She’s worked in organizing retiree chapters, phone banking to register retirees to vote, encouraging them to come to 1199 rallies and show their support and been involved in the Retiree choir. “I tell retirees to get active! There are so many different ways for them to be involved. There are classes they can take (cooking, exercising, yoga, etc.) and trainings they can do. Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you have to stay at home and look at the walls.” She’s also a member of the Childcare Committee, letting members know about the opportunities within the childcare fund of summer camps for their children and scholarships. Even though she’s no longer working in the hospital, Stewart often provides advice to current Union Delegates. “I still get phone calls from former coworkers asking
Caption TK an Occupational Therapy Assistant at the New Jewish Home in Manhattan.
me questions! And when retirees have questions, they call me. I enjoy meeting with members, especially new ones in the shops, and I help educate them about being in the union. The best part is education: letting people know the history and value of the union, so you know the power you’re negotiating from and a part of. 1199 was foundational, it paved the way for a lot of unions and union reform. Being a part of a union is not just about your paycheck, it’s political action, advocacy and education. You’re a part of all of these things when you’re in a union, so get involved!”
“Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you have to stay at home and look at the walls.” – Retired 1199SEIU Delegate, Jacynth Stewart
Working conditions at the overwhelming majority of hospitals were woeful and the service workers – predominantly women of color – were paid barely enough to make ends meet. jailed for 30 days for refusing to end the strike Working conditions at the overwhelming majority of hospitals were woeful and the service workers – predominantly women of color – were paid barely enough to make ends meet. To win substantial improvements, 1199 leaders recognized the need to form a broad-based coalition with labor and civil-rights organizations at its core. The movement needed collective bargaining legislation to be passed in order dramatically increase density and boost the organizing campaign to win real victories. These 1199 leaders, most of whom came of age during the progressive labor and political organizing campaigns of the 1930s, knew that the far-reaching legislation of that era excluded hospital workers from unemployment insurance, disability benefits and minimum wage protection.
Political Battles of the ‘60s
Hold Lessons for Long Term Care Fights Today
The Albany victory that paved the path for the ‘Gold Standard’ pay and benefits for 1199 hospital workers in NYC.
When NYS Council of Churches head Rev. Peter Cook said last month that, “the time is up for paying these guardian angels a living wage,” he echoed what religious and other leaders said 60 years ago during the early years of 1199’s hospital organizing campaign. The inequity faced by today’s home care workers in many respects mirrors that of 1199 hospital workers in 1959. Although 1199 won union recognition at seven hospitals after a 46-day strike in that year, workers were forced to strike again at Beth El and Manhattan Eye and Ear hospitals to win collective bargaining rights in New York City as a whole. The then 1199 President, Leon Davis, was
This exclusion reflected a deep racial and gender bias. For example, in order to make Social Security benefits palatable to powerful Southern congressional barons, the Roosevelt administration agreed to a Southern amendment excluding agricultural and domestic employees from coverage. Women of color were especially affected, being the most likely to be employed in the low-wage jobs that involve caregiving, cooking and cleaning. With this in mind, 1199 along with key allies such as labor legend A. Philip Randolph in 1962 formed the Citizens Committee for Equal Rights for Voluntary Hospital Employees. The committee of more than 200 prominent New Yorkers stressed that the campaign was about more than economic
Workers struck Beth El Hospital in Brooklyn for 56 days in 1962, then president Leon Davis was jailed for 30 days for refusing a court order to call off the strike. Nelson Rockefeller, then Governor of New York (seated), signs bill extending collective bargaining rights to workers in voluntary hospital in NYC. Former 1199 President Leon Davis looks on (left). Behind Rockefeller are former 1199 officers (left to right) Mo Foner, Elliott Godoff and Doris Turner.
rights. It was also about civil rights. Adopting the cause of the hospital workers as their own, civil rights leaders termed the fight a moral crusade for justice. A central aim of the citizens committee was to win NY Gov. Nelson Rockefeller’s support for statewide collective bargaining rights. The Republican governor, with ties to civil rights leaders, was sensitive to charges of racist discrimination. He also faced reelection in 1962. In its publicity campaign, the Union featured mothers who headed households. Those members were prominent in delegations to Albany that lobbied legislators and testified at hearings. The women, many of them recent arrivals from the South and the Caribbean, maintained that unionization and collective bargaining rights not only
benefited workers, but also patients, and society as a whole. Constant lobbying, expert public relations work and the unshakeable unity of the workers at Beth El and Manhattan Eye and Ear led Gov. Rockefeller to announce that he would introduce and push for legislation granting hospital workers collective bargaining rights. Local 1199 agreed to call off the 56-day strike. In 1963, Gov. Rockefeller signed a bill extending collective bargaining rights to voluntary hospitals in New York City. Lobbying, notably by the Hospital Association of New York State and the NYS Catholic Conference, prevented extension of the law to the entire state. That would be won two years later. This historic political victory opened many doors and led to the explosive growth of the Union.
Home Care members Vishally Persaud and Charbel Corleone attend the Home Care Rally held at Union Headquarters on March 22. See page 6.