Union Strong at Planned Parenthood
New HCA Contract
1199 Retirees: Retired, Active & United A Journal of 1199SEIU May-June 2021
MEMBERS GET READY FOR LEAGUE TALKS
We’re the heroes in this fight!
Our strength and unity carries us through the pandemic and on to the struggles ahead.
14 4 The President’s Column AAPI hate crimes diminish us all.
6 Around the Regions Vaccination scheduling info for all our regions; Addabbo Health Center workers fight for crisis pay; Senate Majority Leader Schumer stands with homecare workers; Staffing progress @ nursing homes and hospitals. 8 Maya for Mayor! 1199ers GOTV to help elect first woman of color to NYC’s highest office.
Cover: The Heroes In This Fight! League bargaining committee members voted unanimously in favor of contract proposals at late May Zoom meeting. See story on pages 10-11.
@1199seiu www.1199seiu.org 2
1199 Magazine May-June 2021 Vol. 39 No.3 ISSN 2474-7009 Published by 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East 498 Seventh Ave, New York, NY 10018 (212) 582-1890 www.1199seiu.org
Editorial: Pray for the Dead and Fight Like Hell for the Living
10 Gearing Up for League Talks We are the heroes in this fight; management has to do what’s right. 12 Stop Asian Hate! 1199ers rally in NYC’s Chinatown. 14 From Cradle to Grave 1199’s National Benefit Fund is the gold standard of comprehensive coverage. 16 Save for ’21 The 1199SEIU Federal Credit Union can help you save for the future. 17 Retired, Active, & United 1199’s retirees are a critical part of our upcoming contract negotiations.
19 New Contract at HCA Florida members make strides. 20 Union Strong at Planned Parenthood Workers at the reproductive health giant are organizing and winning strong contracts. 21 Quiet Leadership In the Lab Presby lab worker Lucy Perez launched NYP’s groundbreaking COVID-19 testing program. 22 Our History In negotiations with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes, 1199ers historic flexes have made history.
Vaccines are bringing our country back to life. As of early June, some 51% of the U.S. population had received one vaccine dose. Among those 12 years of age and older 50% were fully vaccinated; among those 18 and up, 64% had received at least one shot. Though we are not necessarily in striking distance of the 70% vaccination threshold needed to reach herd immunity, we are making definite progress. At the same time, activists of every stripe are bolstering efforts by building trust and reducing vaccine hesitance in our communities. (If you want to learn more about this, go to 1199SEIU.org and check out our weekly vaccine newsletter Frontline News.) As our sister Ruth Johnston points out, a year and a half ago where we are today seemed almost unimaginable. Our country—and particularly our frontline caregivers—was gripped in a seemingly endless pandemic midnight, shrouded by uncertainty and death. But the sun is up today. Though we must remain vigilant, we are getting our lives back. We’re hugging our loved ones, kissing our grandbabies, and holding the hands of our treasured elders. We’re also back to the daily work and mission of our Union. We never stopped, but today we are back full strength, fighting for good jobs with good pay and benefits; standing up to injustice against anyone anywhere; and electing candidates who aren’t afraid to get down into the trenches with us.
George Gresham secretary treasurer
Maria Castaneda executive vice presidents
Jacqueline Alleyne Yvonne Armstrong Lisa Brown Tim Foley Patrick Forde Todd Hobler (acting) Antonio Howell Maria Kercado Brian Morse (acting) Joyce Neil Rona Shapiro Milly Silva Gregory Speller Veronica TurnerBiggs Nadine Williamson editor
Patricia Kenney director of photography
Jim Tynan art direction and design
Maiarelli Studio cover photo
Jim Tynan contributors
Regina Heimbruch JJ Johnson Erin Rojas Sarah Wilson
As this magazine goes to press, 1199ers were prepping for contract talks with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes and the Group and Greater nursing home employer associations. Largely (but not completely) because of the pandemic, 1199ers are facing some of the most challenging bargaining conditions recent memory. In League talks, at stake is 1199’s gold standard collective bargaining agreement. Over in nursing home talks, workers who were decimated by COVID-19 are undertaking a decades-long struggle to win the fair pay, benefits, respect, and working conditions that allow them to provide the quality care their residents deserve. Even after risking (and in many cases giving) their lives, workers are readying for a tooth and nail battle for every single millimeter of progress. 1199ers may be weary, but we are inarguably battle tested—and ready. We will not let management forget that we are indeed the heroes in this fight, and they WILL do what is right. At the same time, the purple army was in the midst of making political history in New York City by helping Maya Wiley win the New York City Mayoral race. Should
We are getting our lives back. We’re hugging our loved ones, kissing our grandbabies, and holding the hands of our treasured elders. . .we are back full strength, fighting for good jobs with good pay and benefits; standing up to injustice against anyone anywhere; and electing candidates who aren’t afraid to get down into the trenches with us.
she win, Maya would be the first woman to hold the city’s highest office. Members are also stepping up in the fight against the poisonous strain of anti-Asian racism that’s currently taken hold in the United States. As Mother Jones taught us, working people have vast power to fight oppression and make change, and as 1199ers demonstrate, that power comes from unity and standing side by side, which we did through the darkest days of COVID-19 and which we’re continuing to do today. So as we head into the many fights before us, let us keep those lessons and unity in mind, and remember Mother Jones’ famous battle cry: “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”
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
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Letters & Social Media 1199’S AAPI (ASIAN AMERICAN PACIFIC ISLANDER) CELEBRATION REMINDS US OF OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO OTHERS his year’s Zoom AAPI Caucus celebration on May 18 was very well planned and informative. I learned a lot about Asian culture and the many contributions Asians have made to the U.S. and countries around the world. The event included beautiful song, dance and culture segments that were really engaging. I look forward to next year’s celebration in person with my Union family. As an 1199er, I value and desire to be part of organizations and communities that are inclusive rather than exclusive. I am outraged by the current hatred directed at my AAPI sisters and brothers and proud of my Union for speaking out against it. This community has long dealt with hatred and injustice, and there has been a surge in that behavior since COVID. Undoubtedly, this recent explosion in anti-Asian behavior has been the doing of our divisive former president Donald Trump. His inability to take on COVID-19 and disregard for it from the onset worsened the very deadly pandemic in the United States. He then labeled it the Chinese Virus to camouflage his own failures. Instead of taking responsibility, he blamed China to cover up his own incompetence. We all know that did not work. We are now under the leadership of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, who want to get our country back on track. A woman of South Asian descent is helping repair the damage of Donald Trump. What irony! Yet, the current wave of violence against our Asian sisters and brothers proves that Trump’s racism flourishes. That’s why our AAPI celebration this year was so moving and important. We must stand with the AAPI community and make clear that we are no longer going to tolerate this discrimination and racism. As a gay man who came out in the late seventies, I know that if we don’t fight back, march, and speak out at every chance we have, people will never find peace and continue to be targeted. I am proud of 1199 members as they stand together to fight injustice. No community deserves to be targeted, marginalized, or feel the pain of discrimination. I know this Union has made a difference in my life, and I’m glad to see that sense of unity and solidarity strengthening and protecting the AAAPI community.
AAPI Hate Crimes Diminish Us All
Racist hatred is part of American history. We’ll never stop fighting against it. The President’s Column by George Gresham 1199SEIU UNITED HEALTHCARE WORKERS EAST: As #NationalNursesWeek comes to a close, we celebrate the amazing nurses who, in the last year, have sacrificed so much to protect everyone’s health and safety during this global pandemic. Your tender, steady, and thoughtful care has made all the difference. Thank you!
@1199SEIU_NJ: #PrivateEquity takeover of #nursinghomes cannot happen at the expense of residents and their caregivers. At Windsor Gardens in East Orange, NJ, workers are taking action to defend the standards of their jobs. Check out the report: https://bit.ly/3wi4llJ
Maurice F. DePalo, Delegate Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY
Let’s hear from you Send your letters to: 1199 Magazine, 498 Seventh Ave, New York, NY 10018, Attn: 1199 Magazine, Editor; or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put “Letters” in the subject line of your email. 4
@1199SEIUFLORIDA: We stand with all the fast-food workers ON STRIKE today for $15/ hr. Tell @McDonalds they don’t have to wait for Congress to pay EVERY ONE of their workers fairly.
@1199SEIU_MDDC: Congratulations to Vita Health members for winning a great contract! Because they stuck together, members were able to get pay increases of 8.75% for the life of the contract, increased start rates, a better health insurance plan, PPE language, transportation during bad weather, and more. Way to show that union power!
1199SEIU UNITED HEALTHCARE WORKERS EAST: “I get the flu shot and for me it’s no different. I wanted to be protected and protect everyone around me,” explained Lorraine Beasley, an 1199 Activity Aide at Humboldt House Rehab and Nursing Center in Buffalo, NY. She herself had COVID and knew close friends, family and acquaintances who died from it. “Risk catching it and getting really sick or getting the shot,” she advised. Learn more: https://www.1199seiu.org/ covid19vaccineresources
In the United States, AAPI people are some seven percent of our population and the fastest growing segment. When folks don’t recognize our common humanity—and when, as in the case of AAPI people, we don’t recognize our common citizenship—it leads to hate crimes.
May was Asian-American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. And I want to give a big shout-out of gratitude to our 1199SEIU AAPI Caucus for celebrating the diversity and richness of Asian culture and for raising the consciousness of the rest of us. Unfortunately, May was also a month when we saw an increase in hate crimes against our AAPI sisters and brothers. Former President Donald Trump was a major contributor to this hatred with his anti-Chinese campaign, meant to distract from his own failures to protect our country from COVID-19. Having spent years insulting and denigrating African Americans, Africans, Hispanics, and predominantly Muslim countries, the disgraced and disgraceful Trump didn’t leave out AAPI peoples from his racist repertoire. But attacks against Asians and Pacific Islanders hardly began with Trump. Our country has a long history of such hate crimes, including those by the U.S. government itself. Like the kidnapping and enslavement of Africans, the extermination of 90 percent of this country’s indigenous peoples, and the forced annexation of half of Mexico to create our western states, crimes against Asians and Pacific Islanders are as American as apple pie. Not least of these were the colonial occupations and ecological attacks against Indigenous people of the Pacific Islands, the decadelong genocidal conquest of the Philippines; the atomic bombings in Nagasaki and Hiroshima; and protracted wars against civilian populations in Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, which took a combined six million lives. When gold was discovered in the California Sierras in the mid-
nineteenth century, it was largely Chinese immigrants who worked the mines, providing the wealth that built what is today the country’s largest state with the world’s seventh-largest economy. When, later in the century, the chiefs of American industry wanted to build a transcontinental railroad from the Atlantic to the Pacific, Chinese laborers made up 90 percent of the workforce. But with the completion of the railroad in 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which banned Chinese immigration to the United States. That law remained in effect until World War II. Then, even as it lifted the ban on Chinese, the U.S. government set up concentration camps for Japanese Americans, rounding up 120,000 U.S. citizens of Japanese descent and sending them to 10 camps in remote locales from Utah to Arkansas to Wyoming. Anyone who was at least 1/16 Japanese was detained, including 17,000 children under the age of one, as well as several thousand elderly and disabled people. The move also allowed a massive land grab by agribusiness and real estate investors who swept in to confiscate the vacated Japanese American-owned properties. The stated intention of this mass incarceration was to prevent espionage on American shores. Yet, there was no similar round-up of German Americans or Italian Americans, even when pro-Nazi Friends of New Germany and the German American Bund organized mass rallies in Madison Square Garden and marched through the streets of Yorkville on Manhattan’s East Side—many wearing swastika armbands. What conclusion are we to draw from our country’s dropping the only two atomic bombs ever used in
warfare on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but not on Berlin or Munich? Nor should we forget the way Hollywood has continued to perpetrate harmful Asian stereotypes for years. Of course, these impacted the way Americans, especially white Americans, have looked upon Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. How many people in our country even know that we have a Vice President who is not only the first African American and woman to hold the office, but also the first of South Asian descent to serve in the capacity? Perhaps one in 10 persons? Perhaps not even. The same culture that glorifies Confederate statues, while accepting the cigar-store Indian and the lazy Mexican trope, has kept the people of our country in bondage to their own ignorance. Sixty percent of humanity—that is three of every five persons in the world—lives in Asia and the Pacific Islands. In the United States, AAPI people are some seven percent of our population and the fastest growing segment. When folks don’t recognize our common humanity—and when, in the case of AAPI people, we don’t recognize our common citizenship—it leads to hate crimes. And let us be clear: These crimes diminish the humanity of the criminal perpetrators, not the victims. Hate crimes are not just an Asian American issue—they are an issue for all of us, and we will continue to work together to eradicate all forms of violence and expressions of white supremacy. I am confident that you, my 1199SEIU sisters and brothers, understand this. Now we need to share that understanding with our families, our neighbors, friends, and those we worship with and work alongside.
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Florida Maryland Massachusetts New Jersey New York Washington, D.C.
Around the Regions
At May 4 rally in NYC, 1199SEIU President George Gresham and scores of homecare members thanked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for his advocacy and urged passage of the American Jobs Act.
Staffing Victory for NYS Hospital & Nursing Home Workers 1199SEIU members’ Invest in Quality Care campaign scored another big win in May, when the NYS Assembly and Senate passed legislation that requires minimum staffing at all nursing homes. Both houses also passed a bill that addresses safe staffing levels in hospitals. “I’m very pleased that the minimum staffing bill in nursing homes has finally passed,” said Beverly Miller, a veteran Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at Rosewood Nursing Home in East Greenbush, NY. “Hopefully now there will be enough staff to care for the residents. We will have more time to spend with them, giving them the comfort and support they need and deserve.” The nursing home bill requires a daily minimum of 3.5 hours of care for each facility resident—and includes penalties for non-compliance. Previously there have been no minimums for staffing or hours of patient care. 1199 has been advocating for systemic nursing home reform for decades. The COVID-19 pandemic worsened and amplified several care issues at nursing homes, including not enough caregiver/resident time and short-staffing, which are interrelated issues. Numerous studies have shown that the quality of care a resident receives is correlated to the hours of care they receive. According to the NYS Attorney General, some 15,000 nursing home residents have died from the virus during the pandemic. “Our residents deserve more time and attention than we are able to give them,” said Malcolm Olaker, a CNA in The Pines in Poughkeepsie. “This is a victory—a long time coming. Resident care hourly minimums in our nursing homes is critical, because it 6
means that we will be able to provide more direct patient care to each individual, rather than running around from one to the other, quickly going in and out. When our facilities are safely staffed our residents can get the care they need from us, and we can go home at the end of the day feeling like we made a difference instead of just feeling exhausted.” This nursing home staffing legislation comes on the heels of a win in the NYS budget last month that requires nursing homes to spend 70 percent of their revenue on direct patient care, including 40 percent on staffing. 1199SEIU also led the effort for a law that requires more accountability and transparency throughout the nursing home industry. A hospital bill that also won passage establishes staffing committees composed of front-line healthcare workers who will determine staffing plans in hospitals, creating strong new transparency and accountability measures. It would be the only law in the country recognizing the full-care team approach. “I have been a nursing assistant on a medical surgical floor, as well as being a CNA in a skilled nursing facility. I, like all unit clerk/CNA/ patient care techs, work with RNs hand-in-hand every day. They depend on me to do my best work so they can do the very best of the parts that only they can do. It comes down to the fact that when we have more staff, we have happier and healthier patients,” said Nina Geiss, specialized nursing technician in the ICU Garnet Health Medical Center in Middletown. “If this past year has shown us anything, it is that human interaction, especially in a healthcare setting, is so vitally important to quality nursing care.
Homecare Workers Urge American Jobs Act Passage Hundreds of 1199SEIU homecare workers joined Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at New York’s City Hall in lower Manhattan on May 4 to thank Senator Schumer, President Biden and their colleagues supporting the American Jobs Act. President Biden’s proposal includes $400 million over the next 10 years to help and reform the growing homecare industry. The pandemic highlighted the struggles of homecare workers who care for millions of seniors and disabled people. With explosive growth expected in the sector, homecare workers are calling for reforms to the industry that recognize their
indispensable place in health care. Lilieth Clacken, a home health aide with the All Metro and Region Care agencies thanked Sen. Schumer for his unfailing support of homecare workers and urged him to fight for the passage of the American Jobs Act. “I am a mother and a grandmother. I understand what it means to care for someone out of genuine love and concern,” said Lilieth Clacken, who often works 50-to-70 hour weeks to support herself and help with her two daughters and three grandchildren. “Because of that, and in spite of the pandemic, I got up every day and went to work to look after this person who needs me.”
Addabbo Center Workers Demand Crisis Pay Workers at the Addabbo Family Health Clinics throughout Brooklyn and Queens held informational pickets May 5 to demand recognition pay. The clinic workers serve some of New York City’s most high-need neighborhoods.
Workers at Windsor Garden Care Center in NJ held a May 13 picket demanding that new owners honor the terms of their existing collective bargaining agreement.
Schedule an Appointment and Get Vaccinated! NEW JERSEY
NJ 1199ers Stand Up to Union-Busting Private Equity Firm Workers at Windsor Gardens Care Center in East Orange, NJ held a picket line on May 13 to protest the attempted sale of the facility by the current operator, Windsor Healthcare Communities, to Complete Care Management, a fast-growing private equity-owned nursing home chain. The initial terms resulting from the sale included elimination of workers’ affordable health insurance plan, their educational and retirement benefits, and much of their paid time off. These terms are in direct violation of the 1199 contract, which requires any new operator to assume the existing terms of employment until a new agreement is reached. “Right now, our jobs are more important than ever; we care for vulnerable residents who have been separated from their families for so long because of the pandemic,” said recreation aide Deborah Chatmon. “After working at Windsor Gardens for 28 years, the idea that I may lose my health, vision and dental benefits, which are very important to me, is extremely upsetting. I am proud that people call us ‘healthcare heroes,’ but words won’t pay my rent or my medical bills.” With Complete Care refusing to honor these terms, on the eve of the date of the scheduled transfer of ownership, an arbitrator issued an emergency ruling blocking the sale until Complete Care agrees to maintain the status quo for workers. But the employer has filed court papers asking a federal judge to overrule the arbitrator’s decision. Complete Care Management is now the largest operator of nursing homes in New Jersey. And the company has previously employed similar union-busting tactics as it assumed ownership of new facilities, gutting workers’ benefits—including quadrupling their health insurance premiums for family coverage—and completely eliminating their pension and educational plans. Yet, even as some workers have been forced into seeking state assistance because they can no longer afford health care for their children, they’re continuing to organize to win back their benefits. Workers held pickets on April 15 demanding that Complete Care institutions honor their contractual obligations to all workers. “We work too hard for our benefits to be taken away from us. We need our health insurance, our sick and vacation time, so that we can care for ourselves and our own families,” said CNA June Henry. “We are picketing because we are not willing to give up everything that we have worked so hard for.”
We are making incredible progress. Let’s keep up the good work! Below are links and phone numbers for scheduling vaccinations. Share this information widely with your friends, neighbors, and community. For more information, go to 1199SEIU.org/vaccineresources. NEW YORK STATE Schedule your appointment online: covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/ Schedule your appointment on the phone: 1-833-NYS-4-VAX NEW YORK CITY Schedule your appointment online: vaccinefinder.nyc.gov/ Schedule your appointment on the phone: 1-877-VAX-4NYC NEW JERSEY Schedule your appointment online: covid19.nj.gov/pages/covid-19vaccine-locations-for-eligiblerecipients. Schedule your appointment on the phone: 855-568-0545
MASSACHUSETTS Schedule your appointment online: www.mass.gov/info-details/covid19-vaccination-locations Schedule your appointment on the phone: 211 MARYLAND Schedule your appointment online: coronavirus.maryland.gov/ pages/vaccine. Schedule your appointment on the phone: 855-MD-GoVAX DC Schedule your appointment online: coronavirus.dc.gov/vaccinatedc Schedule your appointment on the phone:1-855-363-0333 FLORIDA Schedule your appointment online: floridahealthcovid19.gov/vaccines/ vaccine-locator/. Schedule your appointment on the phone: 1-866-200-3468
Worker Power Is Young Artist’s Message
Ebony Morrison, the 16-year-old daughter of Contract Administrator Anita Harewood, created this illustration to support her mom and other 1199ers as they prepare for negotiations with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes and the Group and Greater. Ebony is a junior at New York City’s High School of Art and Design. “I’m proud of my mom because she fights for worker’s rights and the rights of people who work in our hospitals!”
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People, Partnership, & Possibility:
Maya Wiley Made History Healthcare workers were the cornerstone of her run for NYC Mayor.
1199ers have been standing with Maya Wiley in her campaign to become New York City Mayor.
May-June March-April 2021 2021
As this magazine went to press, 1199ers were once again in the midst of making history: We were pushing to the finish line Maya Wiley’s bid to become New York City’s next mayor. With New York City’s June 22 Mayoral Primary fast approaching, 1199’s formidable political operation was in full swing—masked, vaccinated, and working hard to elect Wiley and a host of other endorsed candidates for offices that include New York City Council, Borough President, and District Attorney. As they had for numerous prior elections, 1199ers were canvassing, phone banking, and caravanning. And in the leadup to the June Mayoral Primary, they were connecting with voters about Maya Wiley: Why Maya is the person most capable to lead a post-COVID New York City and address some of the metropolis’ most intractable problems. “After everything that happened last year during the pandemic, we need all the help we can get from our elected officials,” said Yvette Vasquez, an Occupational Therapy Aide at
Manhattan’s New Jewish Home. “In my job, I see firsthand what happens when you don’t have enough homecare workers. Patients get stuck in a nursing home when they could [have been comfortable and safe in their family] home. I know we can count on Maya Wiley to make sure everyone gets the care they need.” In the early spring, 1199ers’ kicked off their tried and true GOTV neighborhood and worksite events with a series of boroughwide Zoom meetings. These virtual gatherings held in April and May focused on the importance of local elections and drew hundreds of members to each call. 1199ers were able to connect personally with Maya and discuss with her the issues most critical to them and their communities. Environmental Service Worker Veronica Sanchez joined the Staten Island Boroughwide Meeting and asked Wiley about her plans to address the city’s dual crises of homelessness and opioid addiction, particularly on Staten Island.
Sanchez, who works at Staten Island University Hospital's methadone clinic, noted that both had become visibly more serious on the Island. In response, Wiley emphasized her broad-spectrum plan to address New York City’s crisis around affordable housing and homelessness with rent subsidies and protections and to preserve affordable rentals; community planning; protections for long-term homeowners, and more. Wiley also has far-reaching plans to address drug addiction, mental health, and unemployment. “I like the way she thinks. She’s realistic,” said Sanchez, an 1199 delegate and member political organizer. “She’s also a woman of color, and I admire what she’s accomplished and had to overcome to get where she is. She was strong enough to break barriers and that speaks to what she will bring to the job of mayor.” To that end, Wiley herself hit the campaign trail where 1199ers have laid the groundwork. She logged a lot
of hours in “purple brigade territory,” talking to voters and spending time in the neighborhoods where New York City’s working people make their lives. On a breezy May afternoon, Wiley spent several hours canvassing in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, an area that is home to a significant number of 1199 members, many of whom live in NYCHA housing. NYCHA is an issue central to tens of thousands of New Yorkers and Wiley’s campaign. Focused and relaxed, Wiley’s demeanor was more like an old friend than a politician pounding the pavement for votes. She was open, engaging, and genuinely eager to hear what was on people’s minds—even when they were visibly shocked to find her at their open door. If she is elected, Wiley will be the first Black woman to win New York City’s mayoralty. But it will be the second time that 1199’s formidable political operation and member strength helped a come-from-behind Black candidate for New York City Mayor. 1199ers played a seminal role
in David Dinkins historic 1989 election. Dinkins’ candidacy was seen as at best precarious, until 1199 and the ranks of labor rallied around him. Wiley has drawn comparisons, and as far as 1199ers are concerned, she will end her campaign with the same victory—propelled by the gorgeous mosaic of the working class as a candidate able to inspire working people, young activists, and marginalized voters. “I love the fact that she connects with the average person. That’s something that all of us need to see to empower ourselves in our daily lives,” said Jenny Weeks, a paralegal at the Legal Aid Society. “I’m starting law school in August, and Maya is showing me the way. It’s exciting to support someone with whom I can identify—who looks like me, and who really knows the issues that face the working people of New York.” Editor’s Note: This issue of 1199 Magazine went to press before the June 22 Mayoral Primary. We will report the full results of the NYC primary in the July/August edition.
Maya Wiley is a vocal advocate for New York City’s healthcare workers and has vowed to stand up for caregivers as they struggle to recover from the pandemic.
“It’s exciting to support someone who I can identify with, who looks like me, and who really knows the issues that face the working people of New York.”
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As in years past, members are fired up for contract negotiations with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes and the Group and Greater nursing home employer associations. In May, League members held sticker days and a “flood the phones” call in to prep for contract talks that open in mid-summer.
Members Ready for League and Nursing Home
Contract Talks Heroes unite! This is our fight!
1199SEIU members have commenced preparations for contract negotiations with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes and Group and Greater Nursing Homes by sending a strong message that the same workers who were called heroes during evening rounds of applause and on splashy banners, need to be recognized the same way at the bargaining table. “We have given everything we have to these institutions,” says League Negotiating Committee Member Carmen Batista, a secretary at NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan. “Our work makes these hospitals the world-class facilities they are. They will not allow them to disregard us when we sit down at the bargaining table.” It is indisputable that healthcare workers gave everything they had every day in the fight against COVID-19. Many made the ultimate sacrifice, yet at bargaining time workers, still have to worry about fighting for livable wages and protecting the lifesaving healthcare benefits and that their families depend on. “COVID put a lot of things in perspective for me and my co10
workers. We were labeled heroes in the middle of the pandemic and continued to work like we always had,” says PCT Nancy Stokes, a negating committee member from Mid-Hudson Regional Hospital in Hudson, NY. “And then [management showed us] we still wind up having to fight for everything, so you know what? Now we will fight even harder for everything. We will fight to protect the pensions, healthcare and wages we deserve.” League and Nursing Home negotiating committee elections were held in the spring, with May and June retreats kicking off formal bargaining prep and the development of contract proposals. Though contract negotiations will be largely virtual, workers have already been demonstrating their readiness. In addition to chapter meeting, trainings, and contract and communication captain elections, League members have conducted a number of sticker days and “flood the phones” call ins to management. “We have to be ready to go in there and fight for the things we want,” says negotiating
committee member Nikosa Collins, a cytotechnologist at New YorkPresbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. “We have to go in and say, ‘if you don’t give us what we need we are prepared to go on strike!’ A lot of people don’t realize that we maintain what we have contract to contract and this year is no different—whether they call us heroes or not.” The League was founded in 1968 and currently represents 109 nonprofit hospitals, nursing homes and healthcare institutions throughout the New York City metropolitan area. And 1199’s collective bargaining agreement with the employer association is the Union’s gold standard contract. In the nursing home industry, the Group and Greater employer associations represent some 160 nursing homes throughout downstate New York. Altogether, about 600 1199ers sit on the two negotiating committees. And they are hyped up and ready to go to the table and protect it. Led by 1199SEIU President George Gresham and Union attorney Dan Ratner, the Union’s League negotiating committee is preparing to set forth a list of demands that covers
wage increase, our Funds, staffing, new organizing, and RN and pro-tech issues. Nursing home members, led by Ratner and Executive Vice Presidents Yvonne Armstrong and Milly Silva are determined to protect their health benefits and wages, and win major improvements to their pensions. As in previous negotiations, workers are expecting a raft of management complaints about pensions, healthcare costs and organizing. “One thing we know is that they are going to fight us tooth and nail,” Senior EVP for Long Term Care Yvonne Armstrong told negotiating
committee members at a June 4 meeting. “Everything in our industry is a fight.” Workers are vowing to stand together against any threats to healthcare and pensions and any talk intended to divide workers from one another. While 1199ers acknowledged bargaining challenges, one thing that is not up for debate is their professionalism, dedication, and sacrifice. “Healthcare workers went in day after day, often without access to proper PPE,” said committee member Jim
Wendt, a nuclear medicine technologist at Bon Secours Medical Center in Port Jervis, NY. “We saw many people get sick, many had to be intubated and some passed away and not once did I hear one of my co-workers say, ‘I’m not going into that room or I’m not going to treat that patient’.” President Gresham praised the committees’ toughness, encouraging levelheaded clarity in the face of League pressure and the tremendous challenges that will arise as we recover from COVID-19. “I’m excited and hopeful. I know I’m not going into this battle alone; there other [workers] in the same situation as us sitting in those negotiations,” says Nancy Stokes, a first-time negotiating committee member. “Our hospital may be the new kid on the block with the League, but we are all facing the same issues.” At press time, ratification of 1199’s League and Nursing Home demands was under way, with a broader rollout set for later in the month.
1199’s collective bargaining agreement with [the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes] is the Union’s gold standard contract. In the nursing home industry, the Group and Greater employer associations represent some 160 nursing homes throughout downstate New York.
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SOLIDARITY 1199ers standing together at the May 27 rally in New York City’s Chinatown to stop Asian hate.
1199ers and Allies Rally in NYC’s Chinatown to
Rev. Al Sharpton called for action and unity. “You can’t fight for George Floyd and ignore that hate that is being done to the Asian community,” said Sharpton.
Stop Asian Hate
“We’ll stand here, we’ll fight here, we got your back,” said actor Danny Glover, a stalwart supporter of 1199ers and civil rights advocate
1199ers at the May 27 rally in Chinatown represented the pan-Asian diaspora.
Featured guests Rev. Al Sharpton and actor Danny Glover joined hundreds in action supporting AAPI community. In a powerful display of love and solidarity, hundreds of 1199ers and allies packed Bayard Street in New York City’s Chinatown for a rally on May 27 in support of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. With the action, 1199ers made clear their solidarity with the AAPI community and the insistence that all must stand up in the face of the current racist attacks on Asian Americans. “We are proud to be here in Chinatown today, and we came here today to say we need to stop Asian hate,” said 1199SEIU President George Gresham. “And we need to say that as loudly and as strongly as possible.” Special guest speakers at the starstudded event, which was produced in conjunction with the National Action Network, included Rev. Al Sharpton and actor Danny Glover. Joining them on the agenda were SEIU Local 32BJ Political Director Candis Tolliver, Ravi Reddi of the Asian American Federation, Larry Lee of the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, and Justin Yu of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association. 1199SEIU member Ludi Victor Ramos gave especially moving and personal remarks about the importance of uniting in support of our AAPI brothers and sisters. “At work I’ve seen my co-workers face racism. I’ve seen my co-workers called names by people they’re taking care of,”
said Ramos, an RN at Mount Sinai Queens for 32 years. “We are all children of God and we need to respect each other…no matter what color you are. Sometimes in this world you need to demand respect. The days are over when Asian people can stay quietly on the side. We need to speak up for ourselves and our community. I have bi-racial children. If I don’t speak up for our community, I m not doing right by them. With all the attacks on African Americans I was already worried for my children. Now with the attacks on Asian Americans I’m even more worried. We need to speak up. We owe it to our children and our grandchildren.”
The days are over when Asian people can stay quietly on the side. We need to speak up for ourselves and our community. – RN Ludi Victor Ramos
Also at the rally, 1199 premiered a new video featuring numerous allies including Harry Belafonte, Rev William Barber, actress Melissa Joan Hart, talk show host Jeannie Mai and others—designed to encourage others to join us in our work to help stop the senseless hatred and violence against the AAPI community. “We are here today to let the world know you that you can’t divide us,” said Pres. Gresham. “An injury to one will always be an injury to all. If you come after one of us, you better be prepared to deal with all of us.” To see the video or learn more about how you can get involved in efforts to support the AAPI community, visit 1199SEIU.org. 1199 Magazine 13
Health Care Looms Large in Upcoming League Talks
1199ers say they are ready to defend essential lifesaving health benefits.
The Local 1199 Benefit Plan was formed in 1945, and its goal was to provide basic health, disability and life insurance benefits to just 300 New York City retail drugstore workers with employer-paid contributions. In 1948, the Benefit Fund became self-insured and selfadministered. Since then, the Fund has continued to grow, providing the infrastructure to support additional benefit funds that provide coverage for healthcare workers throughout the industry in hospitals, nursing homes and homecare agencies. Today, four jointly administered Benefit Funds provide a full package of benefits, including hospital, medical, prescription, dental, vision and quality-of-life benefits to more than 400,000 members, retirees and their families. Perhaps nothing in recent memory has highlighted the importance of these health benefits like COVID-19. During the pandemic, 14
“We can’t let ourselves think that it’s just about the paycheck. There are a lot of working people who have to choose between paying for health care and paying their rent—or even paying for something to eat,” – Linda Askew, Senior Lab Clerk, Montefiore Medical Center
frontline healthcare workers tended to some of the most desperately ill patients they’d ever seen. In many instances, those patients were friends and acquaintances from the same communities, and in too many instances, they were close family and loved ones. As 1199ers prepare to enter contract negotiations with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes, the reality of our COVID experiences remains fresh in our minds, and so too is the importance of protecting all members and their families with good, strong health benefits. Come contract time, 1199ers are clear that we will do whatever we must to protect the health benefits that we and our families depend on. Support for Family & Chronic Conditions “When we go into negotiations, we really need to keep in mind that we have to protect all the 1199 benefits
we have, but especially our healthcare benefits,” notes Montefiore Medical Center Senior Lab Clerk Linda Askew. As the mother of an asthmatic son and someone who has her own chronic health conditions, Askew is very aware of the crucial role her health coverage plays in her family’s life. Maintaining these benefits feels like a personal mission. “We can’t let ourselves think that it’s just about the paycheck,” she continues. There are a lot of working people who have to choose between paying for health care and paying their rent—or even paying
for something to eat,” adds Askew, a longtime delegate at Montefiore. Caring for Our Emotional Health St. Barnabas RN Heidi Espinal says her 1199 health benefits have provided the resources to help her process her COVID trauma. Espinal says the support of the NBF has helped her professionally as well as at home as a mom to her 12-year-old daughter. “When you have a support system like the NBF, you are able to move forward in life and take care of all the things you need for your family to the best of your ability,” says Espinal.
Top: Montefiore Delegate Linda Askew depends on her 1199 health benefits to manage several chronic conditions. Bottom: Through the NBF, St. Barnabas RN Heidi Espinal was able to access mental health resources that helped her process COVID19-related trauma.
Support In A Crisis Yesinia Pena, a Patient Care Technician at New YorkPresbyterian’s Allen Pavilion heartily echoes Askew and Espinal’s reminders. After falling ill on a family trip to Mexico in 2018, an arduous diagnostic journey—all of which was covered by the 1199 National Benefit Fund—revealed that Pena had Stage 2 Thyroid Cancer. The mother of three underwent a pair of surgical biopsies as well as surgery to remove more than 50 cancerous lymph nodes and her thyroid gland. Because the surgery affected the nerves in her neck, Pena was unable to work for several weeks leading up to her prescribed course of radiation. Pena couldn’t eat, speak or dress herself without pain. When a clerical error almost stalled her radiation treatments, representatives from the 1199 National Benefit Fund leaped into action, making sure she could get the treatment she needed when she needed it. “The moment I needed 1199 the most, [my benefits] were there for me,” she says. “They just said that Presbyterian should send them the bill. I didn’t have to worry about paying a penny. That’s why I tell everyone that we must take every opportunity we can to support our Union and protect our benefits.” For more information about the 1199 National Benefit Fund and your healthcare and other benefits, visit 1199SEIUbenefits.org.
1199 Magazine 15
those for 1199ers continue to dwindle around the nation. The growth of the Union and the continuing retirement of Baby Boomers have made the Retired Members Division – more than 112,000 strong – the fastest growing section of the Union. These members are called upon to assist in virtually every Union campaign – whether about organizing, contracts or political elections.
Retirees Demonstrate Major Stake in League Negotiations Contracts help protect pensions and benefits for all workers – past, present and future. League contract negotiations have a profound influence on 1199 retirees. That is one reason why retired 1199 leaders are elected to each League contract negotiating committee. Retirees also bring historical memory and important experience to the talks. During 2009 negotiations, management tried to divide members by attempting to weaken the structure of the Funds. At the time, the pension funds had suffered major losses resulting from the 2008 economic crash. But retirees on the negotiating committee stressed the importance of taking a long view and taking steps to strengthen the funds. They helped active workers to understand that their future retirement depends on their ability to protect benefits for current retirees. These benefits—for years of dedicated work—represent deferred compensation, akin to putting money away for later years. As such, they include a generous pension plan (at 16
a time when a declining number of workers have defined pensions) and world class health benefits. Such gains are the fruits of groundbreaking contracts won through organizing workplaces, building community support, and expanding political power. Many Union activists continue in retirement to help build power by getting out the vote for elections, lobbying elected officials, and taking part in solidarity and community actions. Retirees also pay dues and contribute to the Martin Luther King Political Action Fund. They are among the nation’s strongest voices for retirement security issues such as Medicare, prescription drug coverage, and Social Security. At demonstrations and meetings, they’ve stressed that every generation benefits from Social Security. More than three million children under 18 receive benefits. Social Security will continue to be critical to young workers as workplace retirement plans such as
“They are fired up and ready to go.” – Barbara Williams, a Norfolk, VA activist and former CNA at New Surfside NH in Far Rockaway, NY
Retirees play a critical role in 1199’s campaigns, including contract negotiations.
During League contract negotiations in July 2018, Charles Moore, a surgical tech retiree, joined former coworkers on the Mt. Sinai picket line. “What we are seeing today means that management doesn’t change and that workers must [continue to] fight for everything we have, and we probably always will.” Last year during the height of the pandemic, retirees moved to the frontlines of support in many states. “We seniors are especially at risk,” said Barbara Williams, a Norfolk, VA activist and former CNA at New Surfside NH in Far Rockaway, NY. She and countless 1199 retirees played a major role in ousting the 45th president from the White House and installing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. “1199 retirees don’t need convincing,” said Georgia retiree Renée Lindsay, during the last election campaign. “They are fired up and ready to go.” And those retirees helped win Georgia for the president and both the state’s first African American and Jewish U.S. senators. The growing number of retirees and chapters along the Eastern seaboard and Puerto Rico means far greater strength for 1199ers. Today management representatives understand that 1199 represents one of the nation’s most potent forces for healthcare funding and policies in the interest of workers and patients. Retirees remain on the frontlines for access to quality, affordable health care, advancing social and racial justice, fixing our broken immigration system, and addressing the climate crisis. They are community bridge builders. Many are leaders in their faith-based institutions. Retirees’ activism expands 1199’s power and influence, and that translates into better contracts and benefits for both active and retired members.
1199 Magazine 17
1199 Delegate Ruth Johnston
my mother, my daughter, and I have all been vaccinated. Large numbers of my co-workers and almost all the residents at Autumnview have been vaccinated. It’s a moment that was hard to imagine a few months ago. Though we were continuously reassured by our Union, Dr. Fauci, and other officials, it seemed last spring that a safer day would never come. The death. The trauma. The unknown. There was so much darkness. On many days, the vaccine seemed like a sci-fi dream.
United in Immunity. United for Our Future. Vaccines are the way forward, so let’s roll up our sleeves. By Ruth Johnston, CNA I’ll be honest: There have been more than a few moments during the pandemic where I wasn’t sure we’d ever be able to hug our loved ones again. I’d look at my residents, wondering if they’d ever be able to hold hands with a family member or coo over a grandchild. Even as I was reassuring them, I wasn’t sure if real life wasn’t now forever on the other side of a window or behind a FaceTime screen. I’d smile and quietly hide my tears as family members held signs outside and pressed their palms to the windows of our institution. In addition to my job in long-term care, I also worked at St. Joseph’s here in Buffalo, NY, which had been converted to a COVID-19 hospital. There were nights I’d go home, and in my head, I could not turn off 18
the sound of machines or gasping patients, or the unmistakable sound of a body bag zipper. There were times I’d be speaking to a lively and animated patient as I left a room, only to walk back in a few minutes later to find they’d passed away. I grew afraid to turn my back on anyone. Would they be gone when I turned back around? My teenage daughter was one of my only sources of solace in those dark days of the pandemic. As always, she was my light and my reason to keep going. I was also petrified for her. Though I knew she was young enough to be among the least vulnerable to COVID-19, I still lived in fear of bringing the virus home to her. It’s a fear all of us in health care lived with day after day. I hadn’t even seen my 85-year-old mother. As much as I missed her, I could never risk infecting her. But things are changing since
“I’m doing everything I can to encourage my co-workers to get vaccinated. As we always say, we 1199ers can lead the way back. We can be united for immunity and united in a safe and healthy future.”
But here we are. Hundreds of thousands lining up and rolling up our sleeves. We believe in the science for sure, but more importantly we believe in our lives and the lives of our loved ones and friends. We believe in the future. We believe in things we used to do that gave our lives meaning and reasons to get up in the morning. We believe in sitting around tables with our families and friends. We believe in the powdery, sweet smell of the new grandbabies we’re snuggling for the first time. We believe in holding the soft, workworn hands our elders. We believe in the proud parents who this year are watching their grads walk down the aisle. We believe in sitting together on soft cool grass at family picnics and reunions. We believe in hugs without a nervous second thought and the feeling of a soft, warm cheek of a loved one against ours. So, if we want to get back to that, even more of us must get in line and roll up our sleeves. We don’t want to go back to pandemic times. We can’t. I never again want to sit in my car before work and cry, pray and beg God for protection from something I didn’t even understand. I don’t want that for any of my healthcare family. I’m doing everything I can to encourage my co-workers to get vaccinated. As we always said, we 1199ers can lead the way back. We can be united for immunity and united in a safe and healthy future. Ruth Johnston is an 1199 delegate and a CNA at Autumnview Healthcare and Rehab in Hamburg, NY.
Florida Members Ratify New HCA Contract 1199ers make strides and fend off cuts.
Members of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East—the largest union of healthcare workers in Florida—have voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new contract negotiated with HCA hospitals throughout the state. The contract secures acrossthe-board raises and other benefits for nurses and other staff who have served on the front lines of the COVID-19 public health crisis. The deal covers about 10,000 workers represented by 1199SEIU in 19 HCA hospitals across Florida. Under the new three-year agreement, workers will receive minimum annual raises of approximately 7.5 percent, as well as equity adjustments that could boost yearly base raises 5 percent; additional market raises for hard-tofill positions; ratification bonuses of $800 for full-time and $400 for parttime workers; higher on-call pay; and other wage-related increases. Members of the union’s bargaining committee negotiated for more than a year with HCA, the nation’s largest healthcare company, before reaching an agreement. In addition to raises, union members and leaders secured enhanced health insurance and other benefits, as well as workplace protections regarding staffing and assignments.
“The overwhelming approval of the contract shows the benefits and power of workers when we stand up together for what we need from a company that earns billions of dollars in profits each year.”
Hill Hospital in Brooksville, FL. “But the overwhelming approval of the contract shows the benefits and power of workers when we stand up together for what we need from a company that earns billions of dollars in profits each year.” In 2020, HCA reported profits of approximately $3.75 billion. The vote by 1199SEIU members to ratify the agreement was nearly unanimous. “Our union members are committed to providing the highest quality care for their patients, and they have been true healthcare heroes during the ongoing pandemic,” said Dale Ewart, executive vice president of 1199SEIU in Florida. “In addition to delivering raises to workers, this new agreement will benefit those under their care. Better wages and workplace conditions will retain experienced and talented caregivers, especially
during this extended emergency when burnout and turnover can otherwise stress both staffing and care levels.” With Florida as a hotspot for the pandemic, HCA and other healthcare workers have endured waves of infected patients, maxed-out emergency rooms and COVID-19 isolation units, critical shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), the daily fear of bringing the virus home to their families, and many other pressures. “Ratifying this contract is a big relief and a step in the right direction toward what we deserve after an extremely challenging year,” said Karren Knight, a patient care technician at Plantation General Hospital. “Strong unions help all workers—union or not—and our communities in general.”
Florida Region 1199ers at HCA institutions made themselves heard loud and clear in recent contract talks.
The bargaining team also stopped HCA from implementing millions of dollars’ worth of proposed cuts, takeaways and reduced workplace protections. “It was long, difficult year of bargaining, especially in the middle of a pandemic when our members were risking their lives each day to protect patients and the public from the deadly COVID-19 virus,” said Angela Gordin, a phlebotomist at Oak 1199 Magazine 19
Planned Parenthood Workers
Presby Lab Worker Led Groundbreaking COVID Testing Effort
Retiree Fritz Joseph, shown here at his Brooklyn home, displays some of his artwork.
Lucy Perez trained workers on new instrument that vastly expanded testing ability.
Organizing and contract victories at the nation’s largest reproductive health organization.
Workers at Planned Parenthood Group of New York (PPGNY) and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) made big strides in building worker power this spring with a major organizing win and contract victory. In an April card count, 1199SEIU was certified as the representative for 236 workers at PPFA, the parent organization to the nation’s local Planned Parenthood clinics. Driven by their commitment to equitable access to quality care and reproductive freedom, these workers sought union representation to ensure they have a voice in carrying out Planned Parenthood’s mission. In response to the workers’ interest, PPFA leadership and 1199SEIU entered into an agreement to resolve the issue of union representation without disruption. “Forming a union gives us new ways to stay united and support each other. 1199 empowers us to show up for our co-workers and the people and communities we serve,” said Sebastian Deken, Associate Editorial Director in Development. “I support forming a union because I believe in Planned Parenthood,” said Farhana Sheikh, Associate Director of IT at PPFA. “We are a nonprofit that works for the benefit of community and the future of our organization depends on our ability to retain the best people.” “Just like Planned Parenthood’s patients, I want all of us to feel safe, protected, seen, and heard. Joining 20
PPFA Organizing Committee Member Farhana Sheikh
1199SEIU gives us a voice,” said Anya Trent, a Contributions and Compliance Specialist in Development.
“We were able to hold our ground on things that management really wanted concessions on. This contract is an important victory for future generations of workers.” – PPGNY RN Coordinator Mariko Yamasaki
PPGNY workers followed up PPFA’s organizing victory with a hard-won collective bargaining agreement. After they organized in August 2019, PPGNY’s clinical staff faced a difficult management intent on breaking the union and drastically paring back benefits and staff. “It was complicated because we started contract negotiations with a lot of optimism and hope, but then the pandemic hit, and we had to change focus,” says Jessica Blue, a nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood’s Bleecker Street clinic in lower Manhattan. “We wanted to come out of negotiations keeping what we had. Management had always claimed poverty, and then they really doubled down.” Workers said, “Not On Our Watch!” and hit the picket lines, supported by numerous elected officials and community advocates. Workers wouldn’t allow the
administration to use COVID-19 or the dedication of mission-driven caregivers as cover for union busting. “We came up with a lot of costsaving measures to save people’s jobs, and management just rejected all of that,” says RN Coordinator Mariko Yamasaki. “Then the tone of negotiations really changed.” PPGNY bosses faced a determined and mobilized workforce ready to do whatever it took to win a fair contract. In April, 1199ers at PPGNY settled a collective bargaining agreement that guarantees healthcare costs, provides across the board wage increases of 2.5% and 1.5%, and includes a July 1, 2021 re-opener around wages. “It’s gratifying that we stood strong throughout the process, and won progressive wage increases and controls on our healthcare costs,” said Yamasaki. “We were able to hold our ground on things that management really wanted concessions on. This contract is an important victory for future generations of workers.”
For the last 20 years Lucy Perez has been a medical technologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, where her dedication led her to an essential role in developing COVID testing protocols in the dark, early days of the pandemic in New York City. From the pandemic’s beginning, NY-Presbyterian was handling most of the testing for New York City. The country was in crisis, and New York City was the epicenter. As COVID19 exploded, Presby, along with the entire medical establishment was feverishly working to understand the novel coronavirus along with effective treatments and fast, large-scale and life-saving testing. “It was like the early days of AIDS,” she says. “People were afraid to come into the lab because they didn’t know what we were dealing with.” In mid-winter 2020, Indianabased Rush Technologies developed a new testing instrument and an associated set of protocols that vastly increased test ability and accuracy. Perez was tapped to lead Presby’s implementation of the machine and training lab workers. “I got the call from Dr. Susan Whittier, head of pathology at NYPresbyterian, on March 14,” Perez says. “She asked me if I could do the validation of a new kind of COVID test.”
“I felt like this was my time to use all of my training and experience. I had been working up to this moment my entire career.”
of thinking from lab workers and scientists. Perez tried to reassure her co-workers and was comforted by her faith, belief in science, and expertise. “It required validating a test every time you take a test. You have to run different patterns and processes,” she says. “We were really working with something completely new.” Her leadership role often required late night FaceTime calls with newly trained lab workers and even the occasional Uber ride to Presby from her Bronx home to address issues with the instrument or work with staff. Perez
was unbothered, she says, viewing her work as a privilege. “I always felt it was a gift from God,” she says. “I felt like this was my time to use all of my training and experience. I had been working up to this moment my entire career.” In many ways, the work reminded her of what drew her to her chosen field and why she still loves it today. “I fell in love with microbiology because I got to see how life works,” she says. “We find cures, and we help care for our patients. From day one that’s been my passion, because when I see someone ill or in pain, I feel their pain.”
Lucy Perez has been a medical technologist at NY-Presbyterian Hospital in NYC for 20 years. She fell in love with lab work as a young student in the Dominican Republic.
Perez was immediately sent to Indianapolis for training. There was simply no time to waste. Perez says both COVID-19 and the new instrument demanded new ways 1199 Magazine 21
LEAGUE CONTRACTS HAVE BEEN THE CENTERPIECE OF UNION’S
over two years. But around the same time, hospitals instituted sharp cutbacks. Job security became a top priority. Sadly, President Leon Davis suffered a heart attack in 1979, and the leadership was forced to confront two thorny issues – choosing Davis’ successor and deciding whether to merge with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for increased support. The successor and merger issues led to deep divisions. Under President Davis’ successor, Doris Turner, members were led out on a disastrous 47-day strike in 1984. A divided and weakened Union was forced to accept an inferior contract.
GROWTH Rank-and-file leadership has been key ingredient. Contract campaigns against the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Nursing Homes mark major milestones in 1199’s history. After the Union won its historic hospital organizing victories in 1959, it devoted most of the 1960s to winning full bargaining rights in New York State for some of the poorest workers in the world’s richest city. For workers who less than a decade earlier earned as little as $32 per week, the Union by 1968 was strong enough during League negotiations to demand a living wage. At a June 27 strike rally that year, members voted overwhelmingly to stage work stoppages to press their demands at the 40 League hospitals. Just hours before a July 1 strike deadline, allnight negotiations produced the $100-a-week settlement. The pact marked the end of full-time hospital work for part-time pay. 22
Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rep. Charles Rangel marched with thousands of 1199ers during the 1989 League contract campaign.
The 1970s presented further challenges. The Union won generous wage increases in 1970 and 1972. But under President Richard Nixon’s anti-labor campaign to curb inflation, all labor settlements required federal approval. The two 7.5 percent contract increases exceeded the 5.5 percent allowed under federal guidelines. In April 1973, the federal government agreed to the first year’s increase, but not the second. The Pay Council had agreed to rule later on the second year’s increase, but failed to meet two agreed-upon
Employers also came to appreciate the importance of partnering with the Union to secure necessary funding.
dates. On Nov. 5, some 30,000 Union members walked out of 48 voluntary hospitals, and one week later, the Council agreed to a 6 percent increase. Members accepted the compromise. Although they had not won the full increase, 1199ers could proudly claim that they were the only workers in the nation to defy the Nixon board. By 1978, a united negotiating committee and membership were committed to “catch up with the cost of living.” They did so by winning a 14.5 percent increase
With the victory of the progressive Save Our Union slate in 1986, the Union – still not yet fully united – was able to win modest contract gains that year. The leadership used the ensuing period to train and reconstitute the delegate body. Some 4,000 contract captains were recruited to assist delegates for the 1989 negotiations. The leadership decided to test the members’ resolve with a series of rolling strikes. The turnouts were overwhelming. Each action saw about 40,000 members take to the streets. The contract was settled hours before an Oct. 4 strike deadline. Workers won improvements in vacations and benefits, plus whopping raises of 21.6 percent over four years. The Oct. 8 edition of The New York Times heralded the Union’s revival with the headline, “Local 1199 Is Back. The Hospital Workers Are the Envy of Labor Now.” During the 1990s, the Union leadership was finally able to
heal divisions and fortify the delegate body. The 1998 League negotiations reflected the improved relationship between the leaders and members. When President Dennis Rivera asked to postpone a scheduled Madison Square Garden rally after contract talks had broken off, negotiating committee members disagreed. Pres. Rivera listened and then called for a vote, making it clear that the committee members – the eyes and ears of members in the workplace – had the last word. The committee voted overwhelmingly to go ahead with the rally, and it was a resounding success. The one-year campaign with many spirited mass mobilizations won greatly improved job security and benefits, early retirement and wage increases. After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, 1199 and the League agreed to extend the existing contract. Negotiations were held the next year, during a severe economic downturn in 2002. Mass mobilization again led to victory. A key component of the 42-month contract was an expanded employment security package that covered almost three-quarters of members in League institutions. The pact also included pension increases, employer neutrality in organizing, the best family healthcare plan in the nation, and an April 30 expiration date that coincided with the expiration date for 1199 nursing home members. “This contract is the best argument for our Political Action Fund,” said Audrey Gomez, a unit clerk at Brooklyn’s Brookdale Hospital. “Our political strength made this settlement possible.” In 2005, unemployment was up sharply nationwide, including in New
York. Before League negotiations began, members cited three major concerns: job security, maintenance of healthcare benefits with no outof-pocket expenses, and a decent wage increase in each year of the contract. Once again, employers understood that 1199ers were united and were ready to fight to the end for a fair contract. Employers also came to appreciate the importance of partnering with the Union to secure necessary funding.
“To win this fight, we must unite!”
In 2009, with President George Gresham leading negotiations, the economy was in even worse shape, but members again rallied behind the slogan “Save Our Benefits for Our Future.” And they did. “I came to 1199 because of the benefits and pension,” said Nicholas Denesopolis, a receiving clerk at Manhattan’s Lenox Hill Hospital and a member of the negotiating committee. “I just want some security, and we got it in this contract.” In 2015, members responded to the League takeback demands with walk-ins, button-up days and a June 18 League-wide informational picketing. Said members on the picket lines, “We don’t want to strike, but we will if we have to.” Members not only saved their benefits, but also won increases totaling 13 percent over the life of the four-year pact. In 2018, members faced similar resistance from management, particularly from nursing home owners. Again, tens of thousands of 1199ers flooded the streets near League institutions chanting, “To Win This Fight, We Must Unite!” A subhead in the July-August 1199 Magazine hailing the many contract gains read, “To win this fight we DID unite!” 1199 Magazine 23
An Injury To One Is An Injury To All In a public and star-studded show of solidarity, hundreds of 1199ers and allies gathered in Chinatown in lower Manhattan on May 27 for a rally in support of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. 1199ers and their supporters, including Rev. Al Sharpton and actor Danny Glover, called out the racism driving the increasingly violent attacks on the AAPI community and reminded New Yorkers of their responsibility to stand with one another. See story on pages 12-13. 1199 Magazine 24
1199 Magazine | May / June 2021 MEMBERS GET READY FOR LEAGUE TALKS