Homecare Workers Rally in DC
Clemency: Freed after Nearly 24 years in Prison
Nursing Home Members to Enforce New Staffing Laws in NYS A Journal of 1199SEIU November/December 2021
Announcement Of Union Election See Insert
When We Fight We Win!
12 5 The President’s Column It’s time for an apology.
18 Cover: Thousands of 1199 Nursing Home members from across the NY Metro area took over Times Square in NYC on November 17th before marching to Union headquarters for a rally to demand the contract they deserve. After the show of strength and threat of strike action, a strong contract covering 33,000 members was agreed less than two weeks later.
@1199seiu www.1199seiu.org 2
6 Around the Regions Members Take on Nuvance and Win; Union Vaccine Event in Baltimore; Members strike Complete Care Management; 1199 Activism Fuels Election Success; New Contracts Ratified at Strong Memorial and Rochester. 8 Nursing Home Members Prevail Members celebrate victory in a tough fight with hundreds of owners at once.
10 More than Simply Showing New Staff Where the Bathroom Is… League contract wins Preceptor Pay for more members. 12 The Year in Review After being praised as heroes in 2020, members faced tough battles with management to preserve their wages and benefits. 15 The Work We Do Home Care workers deserve better.
18 Free at Last The son of a retired 1199 organizer is granted clemency after nearly 24 years behind bars. 20 NYS Ushers in Strongest Safe Staffing Laws in the Land Nursing home members stand ready to enforce them. 22 Together They Marched How 1199 built its power.
1199 Magazine November-December 2021 Vol. 39 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
Editorial: We Must Celebrate our Victories in 2021 While we continue to build strength for the battles to come. The willingness to stand up for ourselves and our co-workers up to and including withholding our labor when necessary–no matter how long our odds of winning seem to be–is the hallmark of 1199SEIU membership and has been from the very beginning. This year, we have been able to celebrate several significant wins after long, tough fights. In January, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were inaugurated, after a bitterly contested election. Their win came in no small part thanks to the massive phone-banking and canvassing effort mounted by 1199ers. In September, tens of thousands of 1199 members upheld and improved our master contract with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes. The year culminated with a hard-fought victory for 33,000 New York nursing home workers. Nearing Thanksgiving, the profit-minded nursing home owners were still refusing to agree to a contract that valued the work of the caregivers they called “heroes” only months before. While many of us were preparing food to celebrate the holiday with family and friends, these health care heroes, reluctant as they were to leave their residents, were forced to prepare to strike. The strike looming, the owners agreed to a fair contract only 36 hours before the stoppage was due to begin. Without backing down, and standing strong,members were able to reach a tentative agreement on November 29th. (See also the article “Year in Review” (page 12-14) for a list of other key victories won by 1199 members this year.) It is important to remember that all these wins in 2021 took place during the worst pandemic the modern world has ever known. Making time to attend chapter meetings, informational pickets and walk-ins to defend and extend our benefits has been harder than ever—as we simultaneously deal with the upheaval in our families and workplaces that COVID-19 has wrought. But in spite of recognizing our power and unity that we have demonstrated again and again over more than 60 years, man-
George Gresham secretary treasurer
Maria Castaneda executive vice presidents
Jacqueline Alleyne Yvonne Armstrong Lisa Brown Tim Foley Patrick Forde Todd Hobler Antonio Howell Maria Kercado Brian Morse Joyce Neil Rona Shapiro Milly Silva Gregory Speller Veronica TurnerBiggs Nadine Williamson editor
Sarah Wilson director of photography
Jim Tynan art direction and design
Maiarelli Studio cover photo
One thing is for sure though. Members of 1199 will continue to stand together and fight for what’s right.
agement continually attempts to divide and conquer us. Back in 1958, our then 5,000-member pharmacy union took on Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. This victory set the stage for the organization of 3,500 maintenance and service workers at seven private, nonprofit hospitals in the following year. The hospitals, led by some of the most powerful and wealthy New Yorkers, were Mount Sinai, Beth Israel, Lenox Hill, Flower-Fifth Ave., and Beth David (the latter two have since closed) in Manhattan; Bronx (now BronxCare Health System); and Brooklyn Jewish (now Interfaith). The workers were among the city’s most exploited. The media characterized the campaign as David versus Goliath at the time. Since that first fight, 1199 has grown steadily, with each new organizing campaign, into the largest healthcare union in the country. Our membership is made up of people from a wide variety of different ethnicities and faiths. A significant number of us have family members who faced the appalling discrimination of the Jim Crow era. At that time, the Union fought back, alongside the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to improve civil rights for people of color. Like our battles with management today, the war is far from over to create a fully equitable society. One thing is for sure though. Members of 1199 will continue to stand together and fight for what’s right. And by doing so, we will continue to sustain our families with some of the best wages and benefits in the country.
Mindy Bernman Regina Heimbruch Jenna Jackson JJ Johnson Clemon Richardson Erin Rojas Desiree Taylor Kim Wessels 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
1199 Magazine 3
Book Review & Social Media
Book Review Many of us have had to come to terms with more loss than usual over the past two years. Explaining to a child that a beloved family member is never coming back, and helping them deal with their grief, is one of the more difficult tasks that parents face. Yovana Chardon, a Medical Assistant member at New York Presbyterian Hospital for 33 years, has written a children’s book to help parents deal with the subject in a tender way. Catching Butterflies, written in both English and Spanish, tells the story of little girl named Nirvana, who is cared for by her grandmother. The two spend a lot of time together on daily tasks like going to the supermarket and preparing meals. The grandmother who is also a rich storyteller, recounts to Nirvana how she used to have fun in the fields as a girl with her own mother trying to catch butterflies. When her grandmother falls seriously ill and Nirvana visits her in the hospital, she sees her reaching for something in the air and asks what she is doing. Her grandmother says, with the most peaceful smile: “I am catching butterflies. 4
@1199SEIUFlorida: Short staffing, low wages, long hours, lack of affordable healthcare and hazard pay—these are just a few of the issues nursing home workers raised at a press conference in Orlando. It’s time employers treated these #healthcareheroes like heroes. #RespectProtectPayUs
1199SEIU MARYLAND/ DC: November is American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian Heritage Month, and in celebration, please meet member Mary Watai-Navas, a Patient Access Representative at Capital Region Medical Center in Largo, Maryland. Mary grew up in Hawai’i and moved to Pennsylvania 5 years ago, and Maryland 3 years ago. She most strongly identifies as native Hawaiian, and she also has Japanese and Cherokee heritage. Visit the 1199SEIU Maryland/ DC page to read the rest of Mary’s story!
@1199SEIU: What #TransformationTuesday looks like for 1199. We’re still fighting the good fight 80 years later! Left: Leon Davis leading an 1199 picket line during the 1941 strike against Whelan Stores Corporation. Right: Thousands of 1199ers taking over Times Square to rally for a fair nursing home contract in Nov 2021.
@1199HVCAP: Troubled by shortstaffing, deeply concerned about the ability to provide quality patient care, and stalled in contract negotiations by their employer, hundreds of 1199ers held informational pickets on October 20. The energized members who work at Nuvance facilities at Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie and Putnam Hospital in Carmel were heard. Several days later they reached an agreement for a oneyear contract extender that includes a 3% raise and preservation of their employer-paid benefits.
@1199SEIU_NJ: Good morning New Jersey! Today for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, NJ #nursinghome workers are on #strike! Demanding affordable #healthcare and a stop to unfair labor practices at Complete Care Management. #IncompleteCare #HeroesNotZeroes
1199SEIU MASSACHUSETTS: Congrats to 1199ers at Windemere Nursing & Rehabilitation Center on their new three-year contract! Members voted unanimously to ratify the new contract which includes step increases and a clear path to $20/hr for ALL members! Plus it includes a significant staffing bonus program and $1200 retention bonuses! When we fight, we win!
Holiday Wish It’s time for an apology.
The President’s Column by George Gresham
The holiday season is upon us. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Eid Al-Fitr, or none of the above, this time of the year is a season of giving, of peace and love. And I have a wish… But more about this wish in a moment. First, some history: In 1619, more than 400 years ago, the first Africans were brought in chains to the Virginia colony and worked in slavery. For nearly 250 years thereafter, European slavers kidnapped an estimated 13 million Africans and chained them in the holds of ships that crossed the Atlantic Ocean; millions died aboard these ships before reaching their destinations, their lifeless bodies were dumped into the sea. Those who survived these voyages were treated as little more than drudge animals: Deprived of their very names, their families and communities and the languages they shared with them. They were also subjected to rapes, beatings, whippings, lynchings, and other forms of brutality that often ended their lives. Slave labor largely created the wealth of our country, allowing the cotton, tobacco, textile, shipping and banking industries to become the global giants they became. From all of this, the slaves themselves derived……nothing. The Civil War ended slavery, but after Reconstruction was dismantled and former slave owners returned to political and economic power in the South, millions of formerly enslaved people and their descendants lived in servitude as plantation serfs, prisoners (also on plantations), and so-called tenant farmers or “sharecroppers”, and deprived of their civil rights under an American version of apartheid known as Jim Crow. The United States declared its status as an independent nation in 1776. That was 245 years ago.
But most kidnapped Africans and African-Americans were held in the bondage and servitude of slavery and apartheid for nearly 350 years. It was only 60 years ago that the Civil Rights Revolution won a Voting Rights Bill. And those protections have been nearly dismantled by 25 years of rightwing Supreme Court rulings. This story is well known. It cannot be disputed. It is not a pleasant story. It is a disgraceful story. When millions of us took to the streets last year, following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, we began a reckoning with this history. Many statues dedicated to the traitors and slaveholders who declared war against the United States were removed from places of honor. We all know well the Big Lie that the Republican Party has fostered—that in fact Donald Trump was re-elected a year ago and that the vote was stolen. But there is another Big Lie pushed by the same Republican governors, Fox News, the white supremacist blogosphere, and far-right mobs. This Big Lie would not simply rewrite the 2020 Presidential election. It would rewrite American history. They are furiously trying to remove from all levels of the American education system—from elementary schools to colleges and universities—something they label “critical race theory.” But in fact, it is basic United States history that they don’t want our children to learn. Because if our children know our history, they might just want to do something to correct our injustices. For purposes of this column, I am not even addressing the genocide that exterminated— through massacres, disease and deprivation—90 percent of the indigenous peoples who lived here for centuries; or the forced annexation of half of Mexico that is today’s Texas, California, etc. and that
“African-Americans are unique. Our ancestors were not native to this land, and they did not immigrate. They were brought here by force—in chains, at point of death. And history and justice demand a reckoning.” is the heritage of Mexican-Americans. Presidents like to tell us that ours is “a nation of immigrants.” But that’s not entirely true. Sure, tens of millions of our people are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. But our native peoples are called native for a reason. Our tens of millions of Mexican-Americans are the descendants of people whose lands— from Texas to California—were forcibly annexed by European settlers. As they say, “We didn’t cross the border; the border crossed us.” But African-Americans are unique. Our ancestors were not native to this land, and they did not immigrate. They were brought here by force, in chains, at point of death. And history and justice demand a reckoning. This brings me to my holiday wish: It is something that we as Americans deserve. And that is an apology. Is it too much to ask that our President, our Congress, apologize for the enslavement of my ancestors? I am not talking now about reparations, though we are also due them. A simple apology will do. For now. Meantime, I wish you all, my dear 1199 sisters and brothers, a happy, restful and peaceful holiday season!
1199 Magazine 5
Around the Regions
Members Take on Nuvance and Win On October 26 and 27, 1199 members at Nuvance/ Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, and Nuvance/Putnam Hospital in Carmel, NY, voted overwhelmingly to ratify their one-year contracts after a long, hard fight with the new owners, Nuvance Health. Since Health Quest Systems and Western Connecticut Health Network Connecticut merged to become Connecticut-based Nuvance Health in 2019, these Hudson Valley facilities have been plagued by extreme short staffing. “Nuvance had the opportunity to work with us to resolve this problem during contract negotiations,” said Erin Mullen, LPN, a bargaining committee member at Putnam Hospital, “But instead, they consistently threw wrenches into the bargaining process. That’s why we decided to picket, pull back the curtain and let the public know what’s really going on.” The contracts extend for one year the current agreements. They include across-the-board 3% raises, and the continuation of the employer-paid health, pension, training and job security funds. Nuvance refused to honor the historic Juneteenth vacation day agreed by the League of Voluntary Hospitals and homes. But for the sake of settling the agreement to address staffing, members agreed to a re-opener early next year. Greg Speller, Executive Vice President for 1199SEIU in the Hudson Valley/Capital Region said, “We know short staffing in health care is not uncommon, but we believe Nuvance has been making it a lot worse at our community hospitals than it has to be. They are an out-of-state corporation, who came to the bargaining table in an aggressive manner, demanding multiple givebacks from our members, the ‘healthcare heroes’ they praised just last year. We’re relieved that the members secured good one-year agreements, but we think Nuvance will continue to put profits ahead of patient care in our communities, so we are continuing to organize and mobilize in a strong ‘fight-back’ campaign.”
“We know short staffing in health care is not uncommon, but we believe Nuvance has been making it a lot worse at our community hospitals than it has to be.” – Greg Speller, 1199SEIU EVP, Hudson Valley/ Capital Region
Sheila Otieno, an LPN member at Complete Care at Marcella in Burlington Township, NJ walking the strike line.
Union Vaccine Event in Baltimore 1199SEIU hosted a “Kick back and get vaxxed”event on Saturday, October 23, at Eager Park in in Baltimore City. Live performances by Tae Wilson, Queen HD, and DJ Sun were featured and MC’d by Eze Jackson. As well as enjoying the music, People attending had the chance to talk to doctors one-on-one about the COVID-19 vaccine, and get their free and safe vaccinations on site. 6
Members Strike Complete Care Management As this issue goes to print, 1199ers are taking on the largest nursing home operator in New Jersey—Complete Care Management—to demand a fair contract that includes fair wage increases and affordable health insurance. On November 17, members at Green Knoll Nursing Home in Bridgewater, NJ and Marcella Nursing Home in Burlington Township went on a 24-hour strike to protest unfair labor practices and demand better treatment by their employer. Their strike action—the
first nursing homes to go on strike in New Jersey since the pandemic began—made waves across the state, including front-page headlines. Numerous members of Congress, including Rep. Andy Kim (NJ-03), Rep. Tom Malinowski (NJ-07), and Rep. Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) sent out statements of support. As the public pressure builds on Complete Care to settle a fair contract, members are redoubling their efforts to win an agreement that recognizes their hard work as “healthcare heroes” on the frontlines.
Florida Maryland Massachusetts New Jersey New York Washington, D.C.
1199 Activism Fuels Election Success 1199 celebrated political victories across our regions in the November elections. In New York City, Democrat Eric Adams handily defeated Republican Curtis Sliwa to become the city’s second Black mayor, and progressives Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams won their races for Comptroller and Public Advocate. Women will be a majority of the City Council for the first time ever, and 24 of the 29 incoming women council members are
women of color. Alvin Bragg, who has been a champion of criminal justice reform, was elected the first Black Manhattan District Attorney. Westchester was a bright spot in the suburbs, with George Latimer winning his reelection as County Executive, as did Yonkers City Council President Lakisha CollinsBelamy. In upstate New York, member activism helped to win a county-wide race in Erie with Kevin Hardwick as Comptroller,
and elect the first Black member of the Cayuga County Legislature from Auburn. The Union also made a clean sweep in the North Country, with wins in all of the St. Lawrence and Clinton county races where members mobilized. In New Jersey, members helped Governor Phil Murphy in his bid to be the first Democratic governor to win a second term since 1977 in an extremely tight race. Democrats also preserved their majorities in both houses of the legislature. Progressive City Councilor Michelle Wu was elected Mayor of Boston, MA, thanks in large part to 1199 support. In Florida, Ken Welch, was elected to be the of first Black mayor of St. Petersburg, as was Ritchie Floyd, who was able to beat an incumbent City Councilmember there.
Massachusetts members out canvassing for Michelle Wu, who won her bid to become Boston’s next Mayor.
The Strong Memorial Hospital bargaining committee in Rochester, NY.
New Contracts Ratified at Strong Memorial and Rochester On November 5, members at Strong Memorial and University of Rochester Campus in Upstate New York ratified a 2-year contract that includes across-the-board wage increases ranging from 4 to 21% in the first year, and 2% in year two. To ensure adequate staffing levels, the contract includes staffing incentive pay. The wage increases will bring members above the $15 minimum wage before it is implemented in New York State.
“I am an immigrant from Bhutan, and I applied at Strong because of the Union and the benefits I could get to take care of my family,” says Chuda Mainali, an Environmental Services member. “The raises we are getting now will help me to provide for them even better.” Says Tacarah Reyes, a Cook at University of Rochester Campus, “As service workers, we want to be treated equally and with respect.” 1199 Magazine 7
CONTRACTS Nursing home members at the Citadel at Kingsbridge home in the Bronx taking part in an informational picket on November 8th.
Nursing Home Members
Prevail Members celebrate victory in a tough fight with hundreds of owners at once.
It is said that: “The race is not given to the swift or to the strong, but to the one who endures to the end.” This has rarely been more apt than when 33,000 members from 249 nursing homes in the greater New York metropolitan area reached a contract agreement with their employers on the brink of the first large scale 1199SEIU strike in more than three decades. The road to victory was long and hard, but members who
worked together through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic were never going to settle for anything less. Cassandra Anderson, a CNA at Regency Extended Care in Yonkers and a veteran on the negotiating committee, felt this sense of urgency: “This time was different because of the pandemic and how we were treated. We lost residents, co-workers, and family members because of COVID. It was personal so I was negotiating not just for us, but for all of those we lost ... to show it wasn’t all in vain.” She talks about a lack of attention from management in her facility during the peak of the pandemic. “It felt like all along, they didn’t care about us. I would walk past another assisted living facility and see a ‘Heroes Work Here’ sign out front, but the owners of Regency didn’t do anything. I had to gather money myself to hold a small memorial paying respects for those staff and residents who died.” At the end of September, tens of thousands of 1199 members won an
excellent contract with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes, setting standards for upcoming nursing home bargaining. But, early on, nursing home owners made wages and bonuses a sticking point. In response, members took action, held walk-ins and informational pickets and got into “good trouble,” culminating in the Together We Stand: March and Rally on November 17th where thousands of 1199ers took over Times Square. The owners and the media noticed, especially when Governor Kathy Hochul and the two major candidates who were then vying to take over her role, NY Attorney General Leticia James and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams addressed the crowd and promised support. Marcia Smith, a CNA at Caring Family Nursing Home in Queens felt a sense of family and pride at the rally. “I’ve been with the Union for 15 years and this was my first real rally. When I saw the crowd, I felt like this is what 1199 is really all about. If we stick together, we can make things happen.” When the profit-minded owners still refused to budge on wages and wouldn’t commit to funding health benefits for thousands of nursing home heroes, members prepared for one-day strikes at their nursing homes, from Long Island to the Catskills. Finally realizing they couldn’t run their homes without the dedicated workers, the owners agreed to a fair contract, less than 36 hours before the planned walkout was due to begin.
Cassandra Anderson, a CNA at Regency Extended Care in Yonkers, NY. Marcia Smith a CNA at Caring Family in Queens, NY.
“ I can walk into [my facility] with my head held high. This is what happens when you don’t give up the fight.” – Cassandra Anderson, CNA at Regency Extended Care, Yonkers
It’s a tremendous victory that includes guaranteed annual raises over the life of the contract (3.5%, 3% and 3%) in addition to a $1,500 recognition bonus. Health, Pension, Training, Job Security and Child Care Funds are protected, and there is a new process for members who are not currently covered by 1199 Funds to get full coverage. Like the League contract, members now have Juneteenth as an additional paid holiday. “I’m so proud of this contract— the whole thing,” said Anderson. “It’s the camaraderie and standing together—it means a lot. I can walk into [my facility] with my head held high and would definitely love to have a party to celebrate. This is what happens when you don’t give up the fight.” Marcia Smith, a first-time delegate agrees, “I’ll never forget this: It was a learning experience. We got more money in our pockets, and we got a new holiday. We showed up and didn’t back down. It’s not just about the money and bonus, it’s the long-term effect of it: It’s a great contract!” 1199 Magazine 9
More than Simply Showing New Staff Where the Bathroom Is… League contract wins Preceptor Pay for more members.
Every employee expects a grace period when they first start a new job. No one expects that a new employee should be operating with the same speed and precision as someone who has worked in an institution for 30 years. For police officers and fire fighters, it is widely accepted that the rookies will partner up with a more experienced hand to avoid making life-threatening mistakes in their first days and weeks on the job. “What people often forget is that many healthcare jobs involve making split-second decisions that can have life-or-death consequences, too,” said Tina Brady, an 1199 Licensed Mental Health Counsellor at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Queens. How can a recent recruit be brought up to speed in a healthcare setting? On-boarding videos produced by the HR team are fine, but the real work of showing them the ropes always ends up falling to the more experienced members on their team. For many years, RNs have been
doing this work to support new members coming into their unit and receiving a differential known as “Preceptor Pay.” In 2018, during the previous contract negotiations the Union settled with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes, the Union negotiated an expansion of that differential to cover Surgical Techs. This September when the latest League contract was settled, the union won a further expansion of Preceptor Pay for dozens of other professional and technical titles, who will now receive a $2/hour differential for training a new co-worker. As healthcare technology improves, the machines used to diagnose and treat patients are becoming both more complicated and more precise. This makes on-the-job training more important than ever before. Adnan Isa, who joined 1199SEIU fifteen years ago as a Physician Assistant at Beth Israel, says: “Hospitals aren’t the safest places: There is so much going on, and when
“ What people often forget is that many healthcare jobs involve making split-second decisions that can have life-or-death consequences.” – Tina Brady, 1199 Licensed Mental Health Counsellor, Zucker Hillside Hospital, Queens
you have to change gears, a lot can fall through the cracks.” No matter the role, as healthcare workers, there are many hidden dangers that only a person with experience in that role and in that location can navigate a new hire through. Isa appreciates the newly-negotiated preceptor pay, adding: “It is draining to keep training people to know what to focus on. It gets to you after a while. We speak often with the nurses about it; they know what we go through.” “Almost every day you catch something. For instance, there is an antibiotic called Vancomycin, and forgetting to check the lab reading for the patient could result in an incorrect dose which could cause acute kidney
injury. When administering blood thinner, you also have to check the lab reports. If the blood is too thick, it can clot during a bypass surgery. If it is too thin, the patient can end up with an internal bleed.” At Zucker Hillside, Brady belongs to a group of Professionals who won their first contract a couple of years ago. “We have been seeing an increase in our workload recently, and our caseloads were already unmanageable. There are very long waiting lists for our mental health services, as we are a good hospital.” Precepting takes time if done properly and is also a heavy responsibility. “You could lose your license if somebody you are teaching makes a mistake,” says Brady. She described an incident when she was flagged down on her way
Tina Brady, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Queens, NY Adnan Isa, a Physician Assistant at Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan, NY
to the kitchen by a student she was overseeing, because a patient she had on the phone was threatening to kill himself. Brady supported the student with techniques for keeping the man on the phone so that a suicide could be averted. “We really deserve this new preceptor pay,’’ says Brady, “It is infuriating that management trivializes the work we do in highrisk settings.” And it is not just professional and technical workers whose training time merits a differential. “I have seen dietary workers, phlebotomists and receptionists being attacked on our floors,” adds Brady. “You have to know where the blind spots are. That is the part they do not teach you in the HR videos.”
1199 Magazine 11
THE YEAR IN REVIEW
Working in the healthcare profession, many 1199ers continued to battle the effects of COVID-19 in their institutions throughout 2021 despite the arrival of the vaccine early in the year. After being loudly praised as heroes in 2020, many also faced tough battles with management at the bargaining table to preserve their wages and benefits. But as 1199SEIU members have done for more than six decades now, they showed their strength across all our regions by standing together.
1. Planned Parenthood – NY 1199ers at Planned Parenthood of Greater New York (PPGNY) – joined by prominent elected officials -- staged informational pickets at four clinics across New York City in January. The action came after management proposed givebacks to the workers health plan just as the devastating second wave of COVID-19 was taking hold around the city. In the end, after many months at the table, members won a healthcare cost guarantee along with wage increases in April. 2. Highland Park – Upstate After a labor dispute that lasted almost two and a half years, and involving multiple worker protests, including a 3-day strike, members
at Highland Park Nursing Home in Wellsville, NY, voted to ratify their first union contract in February. The 3-year contract includes a 6.75% wage increase and members will now receive sick and personal days, and increased employer-provided contributions to their retirement. 3. Invest in Quality Care – NY Decades of campaigning for laws aimed at improving staffing levels in nursing homes culminated in a major political victory in April. That’s when 1199 nursing home members in New York State celebrated the passage of the strongest staffing legislation in the nation.
4. Stop Asian Hate Rally – NY 1199ers filled the streets of Chinatown in May to stand in solidarity with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders facing a shocking rise in racist attacks. Actor Danny Glover and civil rights activist, Al Sharpton, were among the speakers. 5. ARPA premium pay – Massachusetts After many months of campaigning by 1199ers in Massachusetts, the state’s healthcare
provider, MassHealth, agreed to hazard pay for Personal Care Attendants (who do home care work) amounting to a 10% wage increase for the year beginning on July 1, 2021. The wage boost was paid for with federal money distributed under the American Rescue Plan Act. 6. Better Care, Better Jobs Act rally – NY Hundreds of homecare members held a rally in City Hall Park in NYC in July to press Congress
to pass the Better Care Better Jobs Act legislation, which paved the way for the Build Back Better bill, which would provide billions of federal dollars towards increasing wages and benefits for home care workers. At press time the US Senate was due to vote on the final bill. 7. Hometown Heroes Parade – NY New York State Attorney General leads the healthy 1199 contingent at the Hometown Heroes ticker tape parade
in New York City in July to celebrate the enormous contribution of essential workers during the height of the pandemic. 8. Voting Rights – Maryland/DC Union members from across the Maryland/DC region participated in the “March On For Voting Rights” rally and march in Washington, DC in August.
1199 Magazine 13
THE YEAR IN REVIEW
9. League victory – NY After months of virtual negotiation and a strike vote, 1199ers negotiating with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes secured another strong 3-year master contract in September, which serves as the gold standard for the entire union. This agreement covers 90,000 members and maintains some of the best wages and benefits in the country. 10. Nuvance Victory – Hudson Valley, NY The Connecticut-based Nuvance Health agreed a one-year contract extender with members at Vassar Brothers Medical Center, Putnam Hospital and Vassar Diagnostics Laboratory in October – including 3% raises and maintaining the 1199 healthcare, pension, training and job security funds. Nuvance also agreed to a contract reopener early next year to negotiate Juneteenth as an additional premium holiday. The agreement paves the way for members in four new Nuvance bargaining units, who have been bargaining for more than a year, to settle their first contract with Nuvance. 11. Michelle Wu – Massachusetts Thanks in no small part to energetic canvassing by Massachusetts members, Michelle Wu won her election to be the new Mayor of Boston in November. Michelle Wu has worked tirelessly as a City Councilor to seek better healthcare, childcare, higher pay and better working conditions for
workers who need that help– and have been ignored for far too long. 12. Consulate Victory – Florida After months of negotiations with Florida’s largest nursing home operator, Consulate Health Care, 1199ers won a landmark contract, including hazard pay, higher minimums, annual raises and successorship language to protect them if the facility is sold. 13. Phil Murphy – New Jersey New Jersey 1199ers secured the re-election of Gov. Phil Murphy in an extremely tight race in November, becoming the first Democrat in nearly half a century to achieve this feat. Under Gov. Murphy’s tenure and through the political strength of 1199 members, New Jersey has enacted some of the most consequential reforms for the nursing home industry in the nation, including a safe staffing ratio bill, a path to an $18 minimum wage for CNAs, and a law requiring employers to spend at least 90% of their revenue on direct care. 14. Nursing Home victory – NY Union members from the 249 institutions in the Greater New York and the “Group of 65” nursing homes settled a three-year contract on the brink of the largest 1199 strike in 30 years. Hard won gains include Juneteenth as an additional paid holiday, a $1,500 bonus, and a process to get full coverage for those members who aren’t currently in the funds. At press time, the contract was due to be ratified in December.
THE WORK WE DO:
Home Care Workers Deserve Better More than 70 Home Care members from New York and Massachusetts traveled to Washington, DC on November 16 to join a national rally attended by the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D, NY), along with several other Congressional representatives from New York, to press for the passing of the Build Back Better bill. The legislation provides billions of dollars of investment in communitybased care, including Home Care. It passed in the House a few days after the rally and, at press time, the national campaign for Build Back Better had moved to the Senate. If it passes there, 1199 Home Care members will be in a much stronger position to negotiate the wage and benefit increases they so richly deserve after risking their lives in the pandemic.
Home Care workers from all across the country and their allies rallying together to support the Build Back Better bill.
1199 Magazine 15
THE WORK WE DO
" We are strong and valuable essential workers, and we need to be recognized and valued like nurses and CNAs and all the other healthcare professionals.” – Anna Couch, Home Care delegate
1. Anna Couch a Home Care Delegate for nearly 19 years on Staten Island, NY. She works for the Personal Touch and Sunnyside Citywide agencies. “Now that the Build Back Better bill has passed the House, we need the Senate to do the same. We are strong and valuable essential workers, and we need to be recognized and valued like nurses and CNAs and all the other healthcare professionals.”
5. Andrea Conneely, from Dutchess County, NY, has been looking after her own 90-year-old mother in the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP) for the past 7 years. “With tens of millions living into their eighties and beyond, the need for folks like me, who provide care, is eminent and essential. We as caregivers need to be recognized, heard, as well as receiving a sustaining living wage.”
2. Yan Looi, Home Care Delegate, who has been with the First Chinese agency in Manhattan for 5 years. “I used to work 60 hours a week before the pandemic and [I lived] with my parents so we could afford to send money home to Malaysia. I am hoping to get my own place in public housing soon. “It was great to go to Washington, DC, and see [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and [Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer up close when they came to our rally.”
6. Maria Brito, a Home Care Delegate who has worked from the Personal Touch agency in Brooklyn, NY for seven years. “I take the train all the way from Brooklyn to the Bronx to look after my client. Most of us worked all through the pandemic, risking our lives and health. Some of us died. It is time we receive the Hazard Pay we deserve!” 7. Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, takes selfies with Home Care members from New York.
3. Elizabeth Davis, a Home Care worker for 37 years in Springfield, MA. She is committed to unionizing private agencies in her state. “President Biden is promising money to help fund better wages. But we still need a strong union to fight for those wages. That’s why we’re trying to unionize the private agencies in Massachusetts.” 4. Dawn Haas, retired Home Care Delegate, who worked in Brooklyn, NY, for 20 years with the Premier agency. “Home Care Workers are the least celebrated essential workers. All through the pandemic, we heard a lot more about nurses, doctors and EMTs. I’m sick and tired of it. It’s about time we got some recognition from the government.
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The son of a retired 1199 organizer is granted clemency after nearly 24 years behind bars.
“Whenever I felt despair, I thought about my family. It was my Mom who sustained me,” says Jon-Adrian Velazquez, who was finally released on September 9th after being wrongly incarcerated for almost 24 years. The only son of retired 1199 Home Care organizer, Maria Velazquez, he was granted clemency by former Governor Andrew Cuomo shortly before he stepped down. When 1199 Magazine visited the Velazquez family in Haverstraw, New York, just two months after his release, emotions were still very raw. When JonAdrian, known as JJ, was imprisoned in Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York, his eldest son was three and a half and his youngest was only five weeks old. The boys went to live with his mother shortly afterwards. His then girlfriend simply could not contemplate waiting for him through a 25-year sentence. Aged 46 when he was finally released, Velazquez says: “I have now spent more of my life in prison than out in society.” Recalling how she faithfully brought his boys up to the prison every Saturday for visiting hours throughout his entire sentence, his mother breaks
down, and JJ immediately stands up to comfort her with a strong embrace. She was in her late 40s when he was convicted, and now she is 72. “There were many dark, hard times,” she says. “Whenever I broke down, he lifted me. “All I ever wanted was to be alive when he came home,” she continues. “My house was always empty. It was just me and the dogs. My biggest fear was that I would die without ever seeing him free.” The killing for which Velazquez was convicted took place following a botched robbery at an illegal gambling parlor on Harlem’s 125th Street, run by a retired New York Police Department (NYPD) Sergeant named Albert Ward. While the robbery was taking place, JJ was in his Bronx apartment on the phone with his mother. Ward was shot dead just 12 minutes after the call ended. Mother and son were planning a visit to the graveside of Velazquez’s father, who had died the previous year, to commemorate his birthday. “My apartment at the time was on 168th Street in the Highbridge district of the Bronx,” says JJ
Jon-Adrian Velazquez hugs his son, JonAdrian Jr (left) and his mother Maria Velazquez (right).
Velazquez, adding: “There is no way I could have gotten to that part of Harlem in 12 minutes…except by helicopter.” “The man who died was a retired sergeant from that precinct, who was now running an illegal betting establishment. The detectives wanted to wrap the case up quickly and quietly enough so that the illegal activity didn’t come out,” reasons Velazquez with a couple of decades worth of hindsight into his case. When he was initially called in for questioning, Velazquez’s lawyer directed him to leave the police station. But like so many other wrongly-convicted individuals– knowing he was innocent–Velazquez went back the police station to “clear
things up.” After that fateful day in 1998, his mother did not see him again as a free man for another 23 years, 8 months and 7 days. In 2013, the Conviction Integrity Unit set up by the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, investigated Velazquez’s conviction. But it was not overturned. Neither the testimony of Velazquez’s mother, nor his former girlfriend who was in the Bronx apartment with him, were believed when they said he was on the phone at a key point in the murder timeline. The only witness to the shooting in Harlem to point to Velazquez, only did so after looking at 1,800 photos over a period over nearly eight hours in the police station, before saying:
“That’s the guy, but his eyes look “ My biggest different in the picture.” fear was that When Andrew Cuomo was about I would die to leave office in August 2021, says without ever Velazquez, “He didn’t have to answer seeing him to anyone anymore. His political free.” career was over. All you have to do is – Maria Velazquez, look at the facts to see that I should retired 1199 Home never have been convicted.” Care organizer Since his sons were minors when Velazquez was imprisoned at age 22, they were never allowed to speak to their father without their grandmother, Maria Velazquez, being present. They were not allowed to call him on the phone either. They grew up without a father. “Since I was released, Jon-Adrian Jr. now calls me every single day,” says Velazquez proudly. 1199 Magazine 19
NYS Ushers in Strongest Safe Staffing Laws in the Land Nursing home members stand ready to enforce them.
The New Year ushers in a new era for nursing homes in New York State, as groundbreaking laws that 1199ers lobbied hard for last April finally come into force. The long-overdue legislation—which takes effect on January 1—is the strongest in the country, and it will require owners to devote significantly more money to staffing. “These new regulations mean I will be able to spend more quality time with my residents,” says Beverly Miller, a CNA at Rosewood Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Rensselaer, NY, outside of Albany. “I have between 12 and 15 people I’m looking after at the moment. Right now, I can only give them a quick wash, get them up and get them dressed. There is no way I have the time to give them the care they deserve.” “America is supposed to be the greatest country, but the way we treat our elderly in nursing homes. . .we need to do better,” adds Miller. Passed by the New York State legislature in April, the new laws
“ If the law is followed, I’ll have the time to treat my residents with dignity and respect they deserve as they transition.” – Beverly Miller, CNA at Rosewood Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, Rensselaer, NY
require nursing home owners to spend 70 percent of their revenue on direct resident care, with 40 percent of that amount spent on staff that work directly with residents. 1199ers’ activism during the “Invest in Quality Care” campaign played a leading role in getting the new state laws passed. Yvette Dubois, a Recreational Leader at Pinnacle Multicare Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center in the Bronx, said she wants to make sure the laws will put an end to chronic staff shortages that can mean one nurse having to care for more than a dozen patients. “When staff is that short, no one can really care for the patients,” Dubois said. “You do rounds and just keep watch, but you can’t really care for people—and care [is what motivates us] to do this work.” 1199 members were on the front lines as COVID swept through the state’s nursing homes before there was a treatment regimen or vaccines. Working in spite of well-founded fears was something dedicated members did because they knew the people in their care needed them. “We had no [federal] guidelines or state guidelines to follow,” Miller recalled. “That was the big issue: their not telling us the correct information.” For instance, Miller recalls that personal protective equipment like masks were available, but with no guidelines on how to use them “we were saving masks in brown bags and using them the next day, if not longer.” She also says, “We were not fitted for masks for a long time, and that really became an issue when we had to take sick people from hospitals into the nursing homes.” Miller, who gave a Zoom
Members rally at the Crown Heights nursing home, formerly known as Marcus Garvey in Brooklyn in support of the Invest in Quality Care campaign.
deserve as they transition,” she says. Dubois, who has worked in the Pinnacle facility for more than 20 years—her father, Cornell, died there when it was known as The Hebrew Home—worries that owners will find a way around the new laws and chronic staffing shortages will continue endangering patient care. “All they have been doing is fixing up the facility, improving the dialysis center and the dementia ward,” Dubois said. “They’re fixing windows. But we’re still short staffed, because no one wants to work for people who are insensitive to resident care.”
Yvette Dubois, a Recreational Leader at Pinnacle Multicare Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center in the Bronx. Beverly Miller, a CNA at Rosewood Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Rensselaer, NY, outside Albany.
testimony when NYS representatives were still weighing the new laws, says she now expects to see more staff hiring, freeing her to provide better quality care to residents. “If the law is followed, I won’t have so many people to take care of. I’ll have time to treat them with dignity and respect they
Dubois said staff was amazed at the five-star treatment, including manicures, massages and chefprepared meals on the premises, which the mother of a home executive received while she was housed there in 2020. Yet staffing is so short at times that one CNA must care for more than a dozen of patients at a time. “The intent of the law is to guarantee that nursing home operators spend what is required to provide quality direct patient care,” said Milly Silva, 1199 Executive Vice President for the Nursing Home Division. “If they don’t meet the standards set in the law, they will be expected to shift spending to staffing and resident care. We will closely monitor that spending to ensure that money is actually invested in the workforce and resident care—and that accounting tricks aren’t being used to meet the standards.” Dubois adds: “It is all about the money for these people. It’s negligence. And who has to pay for that negligence—the staff who really want to take care of their patients. We’re not prepared to do it anymore.”
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Together They Marched How 1199 built its power.
“ We got more powerful as we became more political.” – Willie Mae Terry, Retiree
We are ending 2021 with strong victories with both the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes and the downstate Nursing Homes, following a narrowly averted strike. The nursing home win--involving contracts representing 33,000 members at 249 facilities in the greater New York metropolitan area--is important reminder of how the union built its power. A combination of unity and strategy
Carmen Ortiz [left], a retired Radiology Technologist and Delegate at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, NY. Ruby GrahamJoseph [right], a Secretary at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, NY. 22
has enabled members to negotiate some of the best wages and benefits in the country without resorting to a major strike in more than 30 years. Among the many storied struggles, the 1989 League of Voluntary Hospitals and Nursing Homes contract fights shine brightly. The victory ended a decade that began with the Union torn by internal divisions. The low
point came in 1984 when members were led out on a 47-day contract strike, and a divided and weakened Union was forced to accept an inferior settlement. “Because of the divisions at the time, delegates had to fight to overcome the distrust among members,” says retiree Carmen Ortiz. At the time, she was a Bronx Montefiore Hospital radiology technologist and delegate with
a reputation for standing up for members, even under the most adverse conditions. Ortiz also was a key activist in the Save Our Union campaign, the historic reformist movement of 1199 members and former organizers and officers who won leadership in 1986 on a ballot headed by social work aide Georgiana Johnson. In the 1989 leadership election, EVP Dennis Rivera was elected president, winning over 90 percent of the vote. In preparation for the 1989 contract, the Union leadership launched an intensive education campaign and reconstituted the delegate body. Some 4,000 contract captains were recruited to assist delegates in the campaign. Retiree Willie Mae Terry was a New York Presbyterian Hospital medical assistant and leading delegate. “We had a lot of convincing to do after the 1984 strike,” she recalls. “I became a delegate because I wanted to turn the page.” Terry, who was born in Arkansas, knew the importance of organization and unity. Like the 1199 founders who began their political activity during the Great Depression, Terry came of age during another upheaval—the 1960’s Civil Rights Era. “I remember indignities like having to ride in back of the bus,” she says. “We treated the 1989 contract fight like a new organizing campaign. Organizers and delegates had to go back to the basics like the role of unions and of delegates and the necessity of unity above all. “We got more powerful as we became more political,” she recalls. Ruby Graham-Joseph is perhaps longest serving member at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. She began in the housekeeping department of Monte in 1964 and became a secretary in 1968. “I became a delegate after management tried to unfairly fire an RN and me,” she says. “And I remember dancing in the streets in 1968, when we won the $100 a week minimum in the League contract.”
She too was a child of the Civil Rights Movement. “I picked cotton and tobacco in Snow Hill, North Carolina, when I was a child,” she says. Graham-Joseph says that trust was a key element in helping to unite the Monte membership in 1989. “We walked the floor and members listened because they knew and trusted us.” Rather than call for an open-ended strike, they decided to test the workers’ resolve with a series of rolling strikes. Leadership framed the actions as a fight for justice and for quality care for patients. The first one-day strike was called for July 11. To the surprise of management, some 40,000 members took to the streets. On July 25, another 40,000 struck. With each action, the resolve of the members was strengthened. They began to feel invincible. On Aug. 11, 40,000 members were joined by elected officials and other union members at a spirited Battery Park rally. That was followed by a successful three-day strike. On Sept. 1, members voted 10 to1 to strike—unless a settlement matching the one that had been reached with the city’s Catholic hospitals was reached by Oct. 4. Slowly other hospitals began falling into line, but others continued
to hold out. Just hours before the strike deadline, an agreement was reached that brought raises of 21.6% for 50,000 members at 56 hospitals and nursing homes. Unity was the key. “The members trusted us,” says Ortiz. “They had seen me getting arrested and they knew that I and the other delegates always stood up for them.” The League settlement has provided a template for other 1199 contracts. Historically, for-profit institutions have been the most resistant to basing their contracts on the League’s. It was a tough battle with both the Greater New York nursing homes and the “Group of 65” this year. “Fair treatment is not too much to ask for,” says Arshma Middleton, a CNA for 25 years at Yonkers Garden Center NH in Westchester, NY. “Of course, we want a pay increase, but that isn’t all we want. Our workload is far too great. We’re understaffed, and workers are tired. That is not fair to either workers or patients.” In 1989, 1199ers won by standing, marching and sticking together. Middleton says, the only way members were able to turn a tough negotiation around today, was for members to “stick together as family.”
Just hours before the strike deadline, an agreement was reached that brought raises of 21.6 percent for 50,000 members at 56 hospitals and nursing homes.
NYC 1199ers take part in the 1989 strike.
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Standing Strong Vinnette Hunter, LPN, takes part in an informational picket at Kingsbridge Nursing home in the Bronx during the major contract fight which settled in late November. See “Nursing Home Members Prevail” page 9.
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