4 Preventing Serious Illness Getting the COVID booster is more important than ever.
5 The President’s Column Change is Possible.
6 Weathering the Storms Members affected by climate chaos describe their experiences.
8 Around the Union Kaleida members win 12 percent increases; Wronglyconvicted son of 1199 officer speaks to President Biden; Home Care members picket across NYC; Union nursing home workers meet with Biden administration; Celebrating Trans Awareness Week; 1199ers join the fight for NYS minimum wage hike; Active shooter subdued at Buffalo clinic soon after 1199ers pressed for enhanced security.
11 The Work We Do 1199 caught up with Physician Assistant members to learn about their valuable contributions.
14 The Year in Review
In a year when union organizing nationwide saw a dramatic resurgence, thousands of healthcare workers seized the moment to come together with 1199SEIU.
19 The Wheels of Steel A Schenectady nursing home member enjoys an absorbing alter ego.
20 Making a Difference People power proved the pundits wrong in the Midterm elections.
22 Our History Home care members have been fighting back for decades.
Editorial: Resurgence and Renewal
Here’s why the labor movement is set to go from strength to strength in 2023.
1199 Magazine NovemberDecember 2022 Vol. 40 No.6 ISSN 2474-7009
Published by 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East 498 Seventh Ave, New York, NY 10018 (212) 582-1890 www.1199seiu.org president
As we say goodbye to 2022 and usher in the New Year, we have many achievements to look back on to make us proud, as well as hopeful. There are promising signs on the horizon for the year ahead.
Despite fears Republicans would take over the legislature in Washington D.C., they failed to flip a single seat in the Senate — thanks in no small part to our mobilization.
When the results were counted in November, the election of John Fetterman in Pennsylvania meant Democrats were able to hang onto control of the Senate, but their grip was not strong.
That’s why dozens of Union members and officers answered the call from labor allies in Georgia to knock on doors and get out the word that Raphael Warnock was the only choice for working people in the December 6th run-off.
Now that Warnock’s win has tightened their hold on the Senate, Democrats no longer need to rely on their most conservative members to confirm judges and pass legislation. The era when Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema wielded outsized power — often withholding their votes on key legislation to elicit concessions – is over.
And at the state level, 1199ers campaigning for Governors Kathy Hochul in New York, Wes Moore in Maryland, Maura Healey in Massachusetts and Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania also paid off. These gubernatorial victories not only ensure that much more funding will be directed towards healthcare priorities in their respective states – it also means that election deniers were defeated. This may not seem so important now, but in 2024 when the nation is once again deciding who should be president, state governors will play a crucial role in making sure the will of the people is not overturned.
substantially. As we begin to return to a more normal rhythm of life, the solidarity we showed during those dark days has also stayed with us.
Thousands of new workers have joined our movement this year, many of them from job titles and regions where we have not previously had membership. More and more Physician Assistants have joined our ranks (See The Work We Do p. 11). And nearly 1000 RNs at Phelps Memorial Hospital in the Hudson Valley and Clara Maass Medical Center in New Jersey came into our family in 2022 (See The Year in Review p. 14)
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 E. 498 Seventh Ave, New York, NY 10018
The election results are not the only reason to be cheerful, either. As we go to press, the ongoing effects of the pandemic are still with us, but with more widespread vaccination, the risks we face when we go to work have subsided
When new workers’ organizations emerged at Amazon, Starbucks and Trader Joe’s and thousands of people formed unions where there had been none before, 1199ers stood proudly alongside them. At the Labor Day parade in New York City, we marched with them and paid tribute to them. The Reverend Dr Martin Luther King once called 1199 “The authentic conscience of the labor movement.” We took it to heart when he said it, and to this day we constantly strive to live up to it.
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POSTMASTER: Send address changes to 1199 Magazine, 498 Seventh Ave, New York, NY 10018
"As we begin to return to a more normal rhythm of life, the solidarity we showed during those dark days has also stayed with us."
Preventing Serious Illness
With coronavirus cases creeping up again, getting a booster shot is more important than ever.
The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that less than 13 percent of the US adult population has received the updated (Bivalent) dose of the Covid-19 booster. The figure is higher amongst the over 65 population, of which nearly 30 percent have taken the booster shot.
Having at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine is better than nothing. But health experts strongly recommend keeping boosters up to date, too. In New York City, updated Covid19 vaccine boosters are easily available for everyone five and
older who received their most recent vaccine dose at least two months ago. The updated boosters are specifically designed to protect against the Omicron sub-variants that account for nearly all recent infections in NYC.
Urvi Teli, is an 1199 Pharmacist at Rite Aid who recently moved to a shop in the Bronx after her Queens store closed.
“At the beginning when the vaccines first became available,” she said. “We had a line all the way out the door with people waiting to get their shots.”
Unfortunately, not nearly as many people have come in for boosters. With the new variants circulating all the time, it is more important than ever for people to protect themselves. Going to the doctor or pharmacy to get the latest influenza shot every year, in contrast, has become a habit for many. “There is so much misinformation still circulating that too many people are hesitant about getting their booster shots. As a pharmacist for 24 years, I know enough to know they work,” Teli said.
You’re fine! Wearing a mask protects you.
Change is Possible
But it depends on us.
We dodged disaster in last month’s midterm elections. Despite all the polling and predictions, the GOP “red wave” largely receded and ended up being little more than a dribble. The Republican Party now has far too many members who openly espouse white supremacy, misogyny, contempt for science and for public health to appeal to mainstream voters.
But let’s be clear: the “red wave” was only pushed back because of the mobilization of women and young people, especially those in the labor movement—not least of all you, my 1199 family. Blocking the Republican road to control of the government is certainly cause for celebration.
FACT The Covid-19
booster is much more effective.
Masks do not block all virus particles and not everybody around you will be wearing one.
Masks do provide a basic level of protection, but the Covid-19 booster shot is much better at preventing serious illness.
I don’t have time to get a booster shot. I work long hours and have a family.
MYTH FACT Receiving a booster shot is easier than ever.
Simply type www.vaccines.gov into an internet browser, enter a zip code, and numerous options at pharmacies and clinics will pop up instantly.
MYTH FACT You are much less likely to require hospital treatment.
We can breathe a bit easier, but we still need to understand that the fight to preserve our democracy is not over with these elections. It is a fight that we will have to wage up to the 2024 presidential elections and way beyond. It will continue until working people are able to achieve real power and are not simply beholden to a political system in which billionaires have immense power. And because this is a long-term struggle, it was particularly heartening to see the massive mobilization of young people voting for a future free from environmental disaster caused by the fossil fuel industries; a future for women’s bodily autonomy; a future for collective bargaining; and protection against poverty and hunger.
slavery took more than 600,000 lives—more than the combined deaths of all other U.S. wars. What we’ve seen these past six years may be new in our lifetime. But it is not new. The MAGA crowds have been at the base of the Republican Party for at least 50 years—but only in recent years have they been as openly bigoted, anti-truth and authoritarian as they are today. I personally grew up under legal segregation in Virginia when the courts and police in former Confederate states were still ruled by the Ku Klux Klan. So, I have no illusions about the January 6, 2021 insurrection designed to impose a Trump rule over our country. During the Civil War, the forces of slavery were never able to seize the Capitol carrying a Confederate flag; it took Donald Trump and the modern Republican Party to achieve that and to defend it to this day.
“If the Democrats threw some of their ample resources into yearround organizing on the ground, underwriting an army of labor activists and youth to engage in “hand-to-hand combat” state by state, we could actually build a permanent base for democracy and civil rights”.
You can still get Covid-19 even if you receive the booster, so why bother?
You may contract the virus, but you will be protected from severe illness. Data from New York City from early November 2022 shows that the unvaccinated were being hospitalized at more than seven times the rate of the fully vaccinated.
It is a generational fight, one that has echoes throughout the history of our country. The United States was founded on the slave trade, the seizure of the land of indigenous peoples and their genocide, and the forced annexation of half of Mexico to create what we now call our Southwest. The Civil War over
I salute all of our members who stood up on Election Day and in the weeks leading up to it. We made history in Maryland where we flipped the statehouse from red to blue and elected the first Black governor of that formerly slave-holding state. We made history in Massachusetts where we also flipped the statehouse from red to blue and elected the first openly lesbian governor in the country. And in New York, we elected the state’s first female governor, a victory likely would not have happened without 1199 members and the labor movement as a whole working hard to get out the vote. Despite the heroic efforts of our members—and our 1199 retirees—we suffered some difficult losses in Florida (although we helped elect Maxwell Frost, a progressive activist who, at 25, will be the youngest member of Congress) and in other down-ballot races in New York and New Jersey.
Too often, the Democrats are their own worst enemies. The national party has pretty much abandoned rural America and the red states, leaving the Republican Party in full control. It is simply foolish and self-defeating to concede half the country to the other side, leaving it fertile ground for the spread of white supremacy and anti-labor views. And too many Democrats betray their working-class voters in favor of their corporate donors.
And we need more elected officials whom we see year-round in our communities, at our meetings and demonstrations fighting alongside us. Too many come late in the day with a hand out for a contribution asking us to bail them out of trouble—who then disappear until the next election.
It will not happen overnight, but if the Democrats threw some of their ample resources into yearround organizing on the ground, underwriting an army of labor activists and youth to engage in “hand-to-hand combat” state by state, we could actually build a permanent base for democracy and civil rights. Change is possible, but we need to make the change.
That said, I wish you Happy Holidays as we rest up for the many struggles ahead.
“I had more than 14 feet of water in my basement and could not reach my husband for almost 18 hours, when I left here after a 48-hour shift. I had nothing, not even a toothbrush. Everything was gone.”
Weathe r i ng the Storms
Members affected by climate chaos describe their experiences and the policy changes needed to lessen its impact.
Florida members living and working in the path of Hurricane Ian, which made landfall on September 28, are still reeling from its effects. It was the most deadly hurricane to strike their state since 1935.
Kenzi Stewart, who works as an 1199 Diet Clerk in the food and nutrition department at HCA Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte, Florida, remembers: “I was not at work that day, but my boyfriend who also works in my department at the hospital was there when the hurricane hit.”
Part of the roof was blown off in the storm causing major leaks that meant patients had to be moved to different floors.
When Stewart returned to her apartment in Fort Myers after the
storm, “it looked like a bomb went off. Nothing prepared me for the level of damage. People are still traumatized from the pandemic, and now this. Thankfully, my apartment came through without much damage.”
As a Member Political Organizer for 1199, Stewart knows that the only way to protect herself and her community from the worst effects of climate chaos is to press her elected representatives to support climate-friendly legislation.
“Subsidizing the installation of solar panels would be a good start,” says Stewart.
Just one month after Hurricane Ian struck Florida, members in New York were commemorating the ten-year
anniversary of Hurricane Sandy on October 29. That storm in 2012 brought widespread destruction to the city’s transit system and hardhit areas like Staten Island and the Rockaways.
Kimmarie Fish, RN and Delegate at Staten Island University Hospital, says her family was completely devastated by Sandy.
“I had more than 14 feet of water in my house, all the way up to the attic. When I left work after a 48-hour shift, I had nothing, not even a toothbrush. Everything was gone,” she said.
Her daughter Johnny was moved to safety in advance of the storm, but her husband decided to ride out the storm with the dog and found himself trapped in the
attic for 10 hours.
Still an active union member, Fish agreed to lend her voice to the New York campaign to pass a ballot initiative to approve the Environmental Bond Act. This measure gives the go-ahead for the state to borrow $4.2 billion to pay for a number of projects to protect New York from more extreme weather due to climate change.
It includes improvements to stormwater systems, funding for wastewater infrastructure upgrades, wetland protections and switching to zero-emission school buses. Thanks in part to 1199-member activism, the initiative passed by a wide margin in the November 8th election.
Around the Union
win 12 percent increases after tough fight
More than 6,300 healthcare workers at the largest private hospital system in Western New York won a new three-year contract in October, which includes wage increases of at least 12 percent and improved RN wage scales to help recruit and retain amid the national shortage. With this contract, Kaleida members will maintain their status as the highest paid healthcare workers in the region.
The agreement covers 1199SEIU and CWA local 1168 members at three major hospitals, two nursing homes and several community-based clinics—and includes annual bonuses of up to $1,500 for some service workers, pension improvements and more
than 500 new positions to ensure staffing ratios.
The victory did not come easily. It took eight months of bargaining and member action. Nearly 2,000 members gathered for an informational picket in midAugust and when the member-led bargaining committee still didn’t see movement from management, the committee called for a strike vote. After 96 percent of members voted in favor, a 10-day notice was issued.
With the threat of an allout strike hanging over them, Management came back to the table. An agreement was finally reached on October 2nd, which recognized the significant contribution the members had made throughout the pandemic.
The victory did not come easily. It took eight months of bargaining and member action.
Dozens of 1199SEIU nursing home members from New York and Massachusetts took part in the national Healthcare Heroes Assembly in Washington D.C. in early December. Alongside fellow union activists from across the country, members met with officials from the Biden administration to demand legislation and funding for minimum care standards, increased staffing levels, and measures to hold nursing home corporations accountable for not meeting federal care standards.
Members took time to reflect and pay tribute to those who lost their lives as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the nation’s nursing homes and workers fought for basic protections for themselves and their residents.
The Assembly also gave union activists from all over the country a chance to connect with each other, share their stories and celebrate their victories.
Home Care members picket across NYC for promised Federal funds
While the Democrats were in control of Congress, they were able to pass the American Rescue Plan Act, which included millions of dollars of new funding for Home and Community Based Services (HCBS). Much of this money was intended to improve wages and benefits to help recruit and retain home care workers. There is an enormous and growing shortage of home care workers across to country as the population ages. Unfortunately, not all home care agencies used this federal money to fund better healthcare coverage and higher wages for their workforces. Throughout the Spring and Autumn, 1199 home care members mounted a series of informational pickets outside these agencies to ensure workers finally receive the pay and respect they deserve—as well as help to support their families, as they continued to work tirelessly to ensure quality care for their patients.
There is an enormous and growing shortage of home care workers across to country as the population ages.
Velazquez was ultimately granted clemency and released in September 2021, when he was 46-years-old.
“The system is not designed to rehabilitate,” Velazquez told the President. “What I’ve learned from my time in prison is that there are a lot of good people who made bad choices when they were too young to really understand the scope of what life consists of.”
did not go far enough.
“People have to be able to secure employment and housing, because the sad reality is the majority of individuals who are released into society can actually get their hands on a gun or some drugs before they can secure employment or housing,” Velazquez said.
Home care members picket. the Best Choice agency in the Bronx.
JJ Velazquez attends the Presidential Forum with Joe Biden to discuss criminal justice reform.
President Biden talked about having increased access to education in federal prisons since he took office and having pardoned 6,500 who were serving federal time for “simple possession” of cannabis.
Velazquez, who spent his incarceration in a state prison, said Biden’s action
NY Presby members celebrate Trans Awareness Week
Members of the union family gathered at the Children’s Hospital of New York (CHONY), New York Presbyterian campus in Washington Heights on November 17, to celebrate and educate passers-by about issues facing the transgender community.
Trans Visibility Week traditionally takes place in the week running up to Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20, a day which memorializes the victims
of transphobic violence. This year’s celebration came at a time of increased fear and uncertainty for trans Americans. On the eve of TDOR, a shooter opened fire at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, CO, killing five people and injuring 25 others. In 2022 alone, over 150 anti-trans bills were introduced in state legislatures across the country, targeting trans youth participation in sports and gender-affirming healthcare.
Union nursing home workers meet with Biden administrationJJ Velazquez who spent nearly 24 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit, was invited to speak about criminal justice reform at a forum convened by President Joe Biden and the Now This News media outlet.
Wrongly-convicted son of 1199 officer speaks to President Biden
1199ers join the fight for NYS minimum wage hike
It has been more than a decade since the #FightFor15 movement to increase the minimum wage in New York State was first conceived. Even though the campaign—led in large part by Union members— succeeded in writing a $15 minimum wage into law in NYS, inflation has continued to mount.
To make sure working people’s wages do not fall further behind, 1199 members joined a labor rally outside of New York’s City Hall on November 15, urging state lawmakers to make sure the minimum wage keeps pace with inflation.
Silvanis Kydd, an 1199 Home Health Aide with the People Care agency, told the rally, “We all know that the costs of living has gone up. Even though I make
a little more than $15 an hour, it's still not enough to cover my food, bills and rent. My rent just went up with my new lease and I'm having to work more hours to cover it. We all need the minimum wage increase so that we can properly care for ourselves and our families. When you have to work extra hours, sometimes even extra jobs to cover basic needs, you don't have time for anything else.”
1199 is backing a bill introduced by State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner that seeks to tie the state’s minimum wage to the rate of inflation. Counties north of the New York City Metropolitan Area would hit $15 by the end of 2023 and have their minimum pay tied to inflation after that.
“When you have to work extra hours, sometimes even extra jobs to cover basic needs, you don't have time for anything else.”
– Silvanis Kydd
1199 Home Health Aide, People Care
On the morning of November 10 a man carrying what witnesses described as an AR-15 style rifle entered the Alba de Vida clinic in Buffalo’s Lower West Side neighborhood. Moments before entering the clinic, the man allegedly shot a 47-year-old woman in the leg at a nearby residence.
Inside the clinic, the gunman was quickly subdued by two security guards who had been hired just two months prior, after 1199 members called for increased safety measures during a labor management committee meeting. No one was injured in the clinic incident, though several shots were fired.
Dionne Brown, an 1199 Licensed Practical Nurse at the clinic, told the Buffalo News: "We work there every day. We see the climate of people and their anxiety and mental issues. We knew that if we didn't speak up about it, that a bad outcome was possible any day.
"I thank God that management listened to us and really got on the ball and hired new people. Because if it wasn't for them, I don't know how it would have ended."
The clinic is run by Promesa Inc, an affiliate of Acacia Network, a leading human services organization in New York City and the largest Hispanic-led nonprofit in the state.
THE WORK WE DO PHYSICIAN ASSISTANTS
Just one month after marking National Physician Assistants week, a group of 345 Physician Assistants (PAs) at Montefiore Medical Center’s Weiler and Moses campuses voted to join 1199 in November. All the PAs in the Montefiore are now part of the Union family. At the beginning of 2022, the Union welcomed another group of PAs at New York Presbyterian’s Methodist Hospital. As more and more PAs come into the fold, 1199 Magazine caught up with some of them to learn about their valuable contribution to the healthcare system.
1. Magalie Fonvil who has worked as a PA in radiology at Montefiore Medical Center’s Moses Campus for 18 years, is one of the leaders behind 1199’s new organizing campaign there. She first decided to enter the medical field when a family member became ill. “I felt helpless,” she said, “I wanted to learn more about how I could help them.
“People don’t really know what we do. They think we assist the doctor. But we are patient advocates, we organize treatment and much more. We do a lot because we are trained to be in every department in the hospital.”
“ People don’t really know what we do. They think we assist the doctor. But we are patient advocates, we organize treatment and much more.”
– Magalie Fonvil
Active shooter subdued at Buffalo clinic soon after 1199ers pressed for enhanced security
2. Stephen Gamberg, came to New YorkPresbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital seven years ago from Brookdale Hospital. “I really love working at Methodist. We have a good relationship with the attendings, they treat us as independent providers. I am able to practice to the full extent of my license. There is a lot of longevity here because we are treated well. It is important to trust your advanced practice providers like Nurse Practitioners and PAs. We are generally more accessible than doctors.”
3. Nabila Al Barghouthy works in pain management and neuropsychology at Montefiore’s Wakefield campus. She started her Physician Assistant career working in internal medicine at the Moses campus nearly 25 years ago.
“I’m good with patients and I wanted to grow professionally
and branch out into outpatient care,” said Al Barghouthy, “PAs are not confined to one specialty, there are so many clinical opportunities.
“Another factor that drew me to the Wakefield campus four years ago was being part of the union. Economically I am much better off with the 1199 health plan. I like the fact that there are no premiums.”
4. Emmanuel Bujans was another one of the leaders of the recent new organizing campaign at Montefiore's Moses campus.
His drive to form a union with 1199 began during the Covid pandemic. “A lot of things were thrown at us and we just had to manage it. Management were not as supportive as they should have been,” he remembers, “We had more than 500 Covid patients here.
They were sent to us from everywhere in the Montefiore network. The whole hospital was turned over to Covid care.
“We deserve the free healthcare to take care of ourselves and our family. We are like family here and we wanted to take care of each other. There are people who have been here for 20-30 years, who deserve a pension to fall back on when they retire after all those years of service. Also, we want to have the kind of benefits that help retain staff.
“As PAs we are here to make sure the treatment plan from the Attending Physicians is implemented. We are the glue the binds the whole thing together.”
“I wanted to work in medicine since I was a kid. It makes me happy to treat people,” said Mirza Roni, another newlyorganized 1199er at the Moses campus.
Assistants we have a lot more flexibility than doctors. If you want to switch from internal medicine to cardiology, for example, you do not go through a lengthy fellowship process. My wife is a nurse. She used to be a secretary at this hospital and was an 1199 member, so I know what the benefits mean.”
5. “Physician Assistants wear a lot of hats,” said Faith Schwartz, (left) who started her career at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx and now works at Methodist.
She now divides time between FastTrack, which is like an urgent care inside the hospital, and the emergency room. “PAs are the workhorses of the ER. We keep everything flowing.
“We went through a lot of highs and lows during the height of the Covid pandemic. There came a
point where FastTrack was almost empty. Only the very sick would come into the hospital,” said Schwartz, adding that she leaned on friends and took long walks to deal with the stress.
5. Darlene Anderson, (right) who has been a PA at Methodist Hospital for ten years, said: “It is very busy here. We do non-stop triage, so it is often hard to sit down and have a break.”
She recalls the trucks outside the hospital during the pandemic, but adds, “We had good staff camaraderie. We were all going through the same thing, so we would console each other.”
Anderson welcomed the Union vote for PAs at Methodist last year, saying: “I just signed my 8 and 9-year-olds up for 1199 summer camp. I was also able to keep all the same doctors on our new 1199 health plan.”
“There are people who have been here for 20-30 years, who deserve a pension to fall back on when they retire after all those years of service. Also, we want to have the kind of benefits that help retain staff.”
A LOOK BACK AT 2022
In a year when union organizing nationwide saw a dramatic resurgence, thousands of healthcare workers seized the moment to come together with 1199SEIU and build their labor power. At press time, the latest figures from the National Labor Relations Board [NLRB] showed a 53-percent increase in petitions filed for union representation in 2022 compared with the previous year.
Nearly 1,000 RNs at Phelps Memorial Hospital in the Hudson Valley and Clara Maass Medical Center in New Jersey organized to protect their licenses, improve staffing, and ensure patient safety. Another 3,500 home care workers at the Chinese American Planning Council in New York organized to win fair wages, secure benefits, and the power to protect Medicaid funding.
In Long Island, over 200 nursing home workers at Maria Regina Residence, risked their jobs to win a voice in their facility, while more than 300 workers at Covenant House in New York and Planned Parenthood in Massachusetts voted ‘Yes’.
Solidarity between new 1199 members at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and Starbucks union activists in Boston.
Phelps Memorial Hospital workers celebrate joining the 1199 family.
Some 2,000 new Union delegates took their oath of office on June 14, alongside the newly-elected 1199SEIU leadership team, being sworn in at a ceremony in Midtown Manhattan.
1199SEIU President George Gresham officially began his sixth three-year term, while Milly Silva was confirmed as the Union’s Secretary Treasurer for the first
time, becoming the highest-ranking Latina in the Union’s history.
President Gresham saluted the assembled delegates for bringing us through the pandemic, saying, “You worked through the most frightening of times, you came to work fighting this invisible enemy and we thank you for the sacrifices that you made."
Strength and Solidarity Contract Fights
Members joined together with dancers and musicians for a march through Midtown Manhattan on June 12, in celebration of Boricua pride during Puerto Rican Heritage Month. On August 14, members marched again, this time for healthcare heroines and heroes of Dominican descent on the 40th anniversary of the New York City Dominican Day Parade
The following month, union kids from the 1199SEIU Social Cultural Committee donned vibrant outfits for the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA) Junior Carnival on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn—the first time since the start of the pandemic.
Later in September, marching under the banner “Workers Leading, Workers Rising” roughly 1,000 members and officers surged onto 5th Avenue to show solidarity with emerging unions at the Labor Day Parade in New York City. It was the biggest turnout in memory, organized in recognition of the newly-formed
Amazon Labor Union’s historic win on Staten Island, and the equally impressive union organizing by Starbucks Workers United, Trader Joe’s United and many others.
Parade season rounded out on September 18, with the African-American Day Parade in Harlem, celebrating Black heritage, culture, unity, and power.
In 1199 states, members helped to win three key governor’s races, electing New York Governor Kathy Hochul to a full term and flipping Massachusetts and Maryland blue with the election of Governors Maura Healy and Wes Moore. With Weekend Warrior help, John Fetterman won his Senate race and Josh Shapiro was elected governor in the key battleground state of Pennsylvania. In New Jersey, Democrats Andy Kim and Mikie Sherrill were reelected to Congress. After a sustained lobbying campaign in Albany, 1199 Home Care members in New York State won a $3/hr over minimum wage boost in April, amounting to a pay increase of at least 20 percent. Shortly after this victory, nursing home members in NYS ended the suspension of their hard-won minimum staffing and spending laws after applying pressure on Governor Kathy Hochul. By the summer, the NYS Governor was also persuaded to expand the $3,000 pandemic bonus payments to include essential support staff such as housekeeping, transport and dietary, who had originally been left out. 1199 nurses, too, were celebrating in June when a bill to ban mandatory overtime was passed. Florida nursing home workers and hospital staff won a $15 minimum wage in late June following intense member lobbying in the state capital, Tallahassee. This victory will mean higher wages for thousands of workers.
Spring brought more than 400 members at Guthrie Corning Hospital a new 3-year contract including a 9.5 percent wage increase, more than 150 job upgrades, and a minimum wage commitment of $15 per hour.
On-call pay and shift differentials were negotiated to recognize and attract caregivers who work non-traditional hours—and to ensure the hospital remains the leader among Corning healthcare facilities in rural Upstate New York.
Rite Aid members in New York City, Long Island and New Jersey ratified another three-year contract in July, after a tough round of negotiations, which includes annual three-percent raises and a dollarper-hour increase in the night differential. Management came after members’ health care benefits, but 1199ers fought back and won minimal increases to premiums and copays for both current employees and new hires.
At the same time in Western New York, 1199ers at 12 for-profit nursing homes mounted a coordinated campaign to take on six for-profit ownership groups. After a series of one-day strikes in mid-July, members won higher starting rates, wage scales, and a $15 minimum for all service workers.
By mid-October, more than 6,300 healthcare workers at the Kaleida Health hospital system, also in Western New York, won wage increases of at least 12-percent; annual service worker bonuses of up to $1,500; and more than 500 new positions to ensure better staffing ratios.
In Massachusetts, members secured a new Personal Care Attendant contract that raised wages to $18.00 an hour for nearly 60,000 home care workers in the state.
More than 2,000 members working at Cape Cod Healthcare negotiated a new contract that includes a minimum of 10 percent wage growth.
The Heroes We Lost
This year, the 1199SEIU family mourned the passing of some of its most celebrated heroes. Among them was Edward “Eddie” Kay, former EVP and the dean of labor organizers. Kay, who died on Feb. 15 at age 89, was profiled in the March/April issue of this magazine.
new organizing director in 2002.
Former 1199 President Dennis Rivera addressed the celebration via Zoom from his home in Puerto Rico. He praised his “dear sister’s devotion and commitment.” He credited her also for playing a major role in 1199’s enormous growth. As stated in her obituary, “Under Sylvia’s stewardship, 1199 organized
mother and Puerto Rican father, he spent his formative years in both places and devoted his entire life to the fight for justice and against U.S. colonialism.
Rivera began work with 1199 in the 1980s and rose to the position of VP. He was a foremost champion of labor and international solidarity—and he was an outstanding teacher.
The Whe el s of Ste el
A Schenectady nursing home member enjoys an absorbing alter
Another towering hero in the Union’s history was 1199’s first Latina EVP, Sylvia Gutierrez Grant, who died peacefully at home on July 20. She was 88. 1199ers, both active and actively retired, gathered Nov. 16 at the Union’s Manhattan headquarters, to celebrate her life.
A large percentage of the celebrants were retirees who had worked with Gutierrez Grant in the 1980s campaign to win back leadership of the Union and return it to its democratic progressive path. The Save Our Union slate ultimately won leadership in 1986. After serving in various key capacities, Gutierrez Grant retired her post as EVP and
tens of thousands of new members.”
“She was a fierce fighter for women’s rights,” said former VP Ana Vazquez. “She gave strength to every sister and also inspired our brothers.”
Former National 1199 Organizing Director Bob Muehlenkamp called Gutierrez Grant “the heart and soul of Save Our Union and 1199.”
Bruce Edward Popper, former 1199SEIU VP from Rochester, passed away Nov.
23, after a long battle with cancer. He was 71. During his 45- year tenure as an organizer and VP, Popper’s name became synonymous with 1199 and the upstate progressive movement.
His life-long commitment to justice, equality and labor rights are reflected in the range of the many commissions and boards on which he served. Popper’s contributions were so considerable that upon his retirement in 2019, he was presented with the key to the city of Rochester.
“Bruce combined an unparalleled level of duty and devotion with a friendly demeanor marked by empathy and respect for others. He demonstrated that workers are the lifeblood of a community and through them all things are possible,” his obituary read.
Rhadames Rivera Corazon, an 1199 VP, passed away on Feb. 12 of this year at 69. Born in the Dominican Republic to a Dominican
“He taught me that my job as an organizer is to work myself out of a job by empowering the workers to the point that they don’t need me to take on the boss,” says 1199SEIU organizer Samuel Sierra. Rivera’s last assignment was to work with Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT), 1199’s sister union in Puerto Rico.
On word of his death, tributes poured in from leaders and activists throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.
“I am an entertainer in my soul,” says DJ Ketchup—aka Chaheem Priest, an 1199 Resident Support Worker at Glendale Nursing Home in Schenectady, New York. He’s worked there since 2008, only taking a short hiatus during the height of COVID.
In his spare time, DJ Ketchup can be found on the “wheels of steel,” mixing tracks for weddings, bar mitzvahs, business events and even school dances. “My favorite part is getting into the audience and dancing and singing with the guests,” he says.
1199NEWS recently met up with DJ Ketchup high above the field in a press box calling plays for the New York Capital Region’s champion Schenectady-Belmont Pop Warner football team. Despite the action on the high school gridiron, DJ Ketchup made sure fans knew 1199 was also in the house along with the union’s 2022 endorsed candidates at a special table full of swag.
Where did the DJ Ketchup handle come from? “It’s a silly little story,” Priest explains. “I was 14, sitting at the lunch table with my mom. I told her that I wanted to be a professional DJ. She said, ‘You’d be terrific! You are already pro here at home. Other people are going to have to catch up with you, son.’ And then I reached for ketchup for my lunch…the rest is history!”
A little later, while still in middle school, one of Priest’s classmates invited him to a pool party. “I
offered to DJ and her mother said, okay. I was really nervous at first, but I kept gaining confidence the more events I did.”
My mom was always my biggest support. She passed recently—and that’s why I named our 3-year-old daughter, Lorriana, after her.”
Now 32, Priest has a genuine side gig going with his twin brother, Kaheem, who acts as his business partner in DJ Ketchup Enterprises.
In his day job as a Resident Support Worker, Priest works in various different parts of the facility. “If they need housekeeping one day, I do that. If they need laundry, I do that,” the parttime DJ says. “Whenever I have a chance, I interact with the residents and spend time just talking with them. I love to hear their stories. The CNAs and direct care workers used to have more time to listen to those stories and socialize with the residents— but short-staffing is an issue at Glendale, just like everywhere else. I am so glad I can help fill that role. I also work with the recreation aides who set up time for me to entertain the residents.”
DJ Ketchup plays all kinds of music depending on his audience. At the nursing home, it’s often music from the 40s, 50s and 60s. “I play big band music and country music. Whatever the residents want. And I dance with them,” DJ Ketchup says. “I am
grateful that we have a union that gives us a voice at work, so that managers aren’t the only ones who make decisions. I know this helps morale. I am clear that when it comes to contract time, one person could never win alone what our union committee bargains. I am always aware that I am lucky to be an 1199 member.”– DJ Ketchup
“My favorite part is getting into the audience and dancing and singing with the guests.”
Across the country, the labor movement was instrumental in making sure that every single election denier running to oversee state elections was defeated.
Making a Difference
People power proved the pundits wrong in the Midterm elections.
As the country went into the midterm elections on November 8, the GOP was crowing about an expected “red wave” – counting on voters’ fears around crime and inflation to carry them through.
But they weren’t accounting for the power of the Weekend Warriors of the purple army. In New York State, once Governor Hochul had proven herself by bringing in higher wages for home care members; expanding the $3,000 pandemic bonus program and increasing funding the safety net hospitals, 1199ers knew she deserved their support to become a full-term governor.
Mounting a crucial push to get out the vote, the Union enabled 500 members to be released from their jobs in order to distribute half a million flyers throughout NYC and Long Island in the final days of the election. They also made 60,000 calls to members reminding them to vote, as well as 33,380 text messages being sent.
In the key battleground state of Pennsylvania, John Fetterman won his US Senate race and Josh
Shapiro was elected Governor with members’ help knocking on doors and talking to voters. In the 1199 states of Massachusetts and Maryland, local members helped lift Maura Healy and Wes Moore into their respective governor’s mansions. Moore will be the first Black governor of Maryland and the third elected nationwide; Healy is the first lesbian elected governor nationally, while Hochul is the first woman elected governor in New York.
And after helping to keep the US Senate blue in Pennsylvania, 1199ers didn’t stop there. Officers and members travelled down to Georgia to meet up with retirees and make sure that Senator Raphael Warnock was able to beat back his runoff challenge on December 6 and give the Democrats an outright majority.
Across the country, the labor movement was instrumental in making sure that every single election denier running to oversee state elections was defeated. This is vital to shoring up our democracy as we move into the 2024 presidential elections cycle.
FIGHTING BACK HOME CARE MEMBERS
Their road to justice has been long and winding.
The past year has been an especially good one for 1199 home care members in New York State. In February, an arbitrator issued an historic $32 million award covering more than 100,000 current and former 1199SEIU bargaining unit members employed at 42 New York home care agencies.
In April, Home Care members in the state won a $3-an-hour increase over minimum wage, amounting to a 20 percent increase.
Nonetheless, home care workers’ fight for the wages and benefits they deserve is far from over. The majority are still overworked, undervalued and underpaid. Since 1199 first took on the unpopular task of organizing these dedicated workers in 1987, slowly but surely, improvements have been won. When the union first began organizing them, the home care workers earned less than $5,000 a year.
A year prior to that, the
reformist Save Our Union movement earned back the leadership of a divided Union. The new leaders immediately sought to restore internal unity, as well as 1199’s reputation as champions of democracy and social justice. And just as 1199ers rose to the task of organizing poorly-paid hospital workers three decades earlier, they decided it was only right to do the same for home care workers.
Similar to the earlier hospital organizing campaign, the Union envisioned the fight as a civil rights and social justice crusade. The majority of the home care workers were African-American and Latina women—but a growing percentage were immigrants from Russia, Haiti and Asia—especially China.
Numerous obstacles had deterred other unions from organizing these workers, who were not covered by minimum wage laws and other
labor legislation. They were also routinely classified as “independent contractors.”
The Union began its “Crusade for Justice” by holding a spring 1987 press conference on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. They were there at the invitation of John Cardinal O’Connor, Archbishop of New York. The Union had also won support of others in the faith community, including the Rev. James Forbes of New York City’s prestigious Riverside Church.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who would one year later wage a valiant campaign to become the Democratic Party nominee for president, also spoke at the spring press conference. One month later, he and Cardinal O’Connor addressed a mass rally called jointly by 1199 and DC 1707 of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which also represented New York City home care workers. Such an
alliance was unusual within the labor movement at the time.
Manhattan Borough President David Dinkins, who earlier in the year had called a special hearing to help expose the harsh plight of the workers, led the assembly of political leaders at the rally. Two years later, Dinkins was elected New York City’s first AfricanAmerican mayor.
The campaign bore fruit in the spring of 1988, when the workers won a 51 percent raise over three years, and for the first time, health care benefits. That year, the Union also established the Home Health Care Division.
Despite these major gains, home care workers remained far behind others in health care. Three years after winning their first contract, 10,000 members marched in Manhattan during a one-day strike. Two months later, they held a two-day strike. Six months after that, they won a contract that, for the first time, provided a pension and training benefits.
1199 home care members were also on the frontlines of the Fight for $15 campaign. Begun in 2012, the movement eventually won legislation to raise the minimum wage to at least $15-anhour in all the states where 1199
has a presence: New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland and Florida.
Although a large percentage of the Union’s 125,000 home care members head singleparent households—they are among the most active and loyal 1199ers. Whenever the call goes out to support 1199-endorsed candidates at election time— home care workers are there.
Anicia Council, a home care worker with Accent Care, is one of those members carrying on a long tradition. In October, she travelled from her home in Harlem, all the way to southern New Jersey on a union bus to canvass door-to-door for US Congressman Andy Kim, who went on to win his race handily.
“I’m proud to be a union home care worker,” Council says, “and I know how important it is to support the elected representatives who have our backs in Washington.”
“I’m proud to be a union home care worker and I know how important it is to support the elected representatives who have our backs in Washington.” Home care workers participate in 1199-organized conference on February 28, 1987.
1199 Home health care workers take part in a one-day strike on April 17, 1991 for a fair state budget.
“I wanted to work in medicine since I was a kid. It makes me happy to treat people,” said Mirza Roni, a Physician Assistant who recently joined the 1199 family at the Montefiore Medical Center Moses campus. See page 11.