EITC Program Dates and Locations
A Journal of 1199SEIU January-February 2019
Announcement of Union Election Balloting See Insert
NYC Public Advocate Forum
NH Safety Concerns
“What we do is important, and it must be done right.” Marie Adam has been a Good Sam CST for seven years. 1
Central Sterile Techs at Brockton’s Good Samaritan Medical Center ensure patient safety and health. See story on pages 12-14
5 The President’s Column The shutdown taught Mr. Trump about workers’ power.
10 NYC Public Advocate Candidate Forum Members met with candidates at Union HQ.
6 Around The Regions Black History Month Celebrations; contract fight at HCA; NLRB win for Alaris workers; 1199 stands against attacks on TPS program.
12 The Work We Do Central Sterile Techs at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, MA.
8 Albany Lobby Day 1199ers headed to NYC capital to stand up for health care.
@1199seiu www.1199seiu.org 2
15 Our Delegates Brenda Anderson is an active delegate who organized her workplace. 16 Buffalo NH Members Stand Up for Safe Staffing Partnership initiatives are central to solution.
18 Know Your Contract The document is the backbone of trade unionism. 20 Thank U, Next! Members stand behind their proposals and win at the bargaining table. 22 EITC Program Dates & Locations Tax breaks aren’t just for rich people. 23 What Do You Know About Voting? Take this quiz!
1199 Magazine January-February 2019 Vol. 37, No. 1 ISSN 2474-7009 Published by 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East 310 West 43rd St. New York, NY 10036 (212) 582-1890 www.1199seiu.org
Editorial: Our History Lays the Groundwork for Today’s Success We are still learning from the struggles of our founders. As you may know, this year we celebrate 60 years as a healthcare Union. It has been six decades since an intrepid group of New York City hospital workers—mostly Black and Brown women—guided by a visionary leadership fought for and won 1199’s first hospital contract. Those workers planted the seed that transformed what was a small drugstore union into the largest local union in the world. And while much has changed over that time, much has remained the same. Our struggles today may look different, engaging a host of players across a wider geography, but 1199’s essential mission is unchanged. As we have since our beginnings, 1199ers are fighting to secure a better future for working people, win respect for those who shoulder the essential responsibilities of care, and ensure that every person is treated with the same measure of dignity and justice. As this issue goes to press, 1199ers in New York are mobilizing to stop Medicaid cuts that could devastate their healthcare system. The cuts, rooted in President Trump’s rapacious tax changes, could result in hospital closures, homecare agency bankruptcies, and the disruption of funding for workers’ salaries. The cuts’ announcement came on the heels of a mid-February Albany Lobby Day where 1199ers, braving a blizzard, pressed lawmakers to preserve funding, foster nursing home industry transparency and impose higher ethical standards on the homecare industry. Now, 1199ers are vowing to take to the streets and airwaves to fight back. This kind of unity has always been in 1199’s DNA. With 1959 as model, today’s 1199ers are adding rungs to the ladder of success. In this issue, covering just the last few months, we see: • Union members from New York’s Hudson Valley all the way to South Florida hanging tough at the negotiating table and winning collective Illustration by Luba Lukova
George Gresham secretary treasurer
Maria Castaneda executive vice presidents
Jacqueline Alleyne Norma Amsterdam Yvonne Armstrong Lisa Brown Ruth Heller Maria Kercado Steve Kramer Joyce Neil Monica Russo Rona Shapiro Milly Silva Gregory Speller Veronica Turner-Biggs Laurie Vallone Estela Vazquez editor
Patricia Kenney director of photography
art direction & design Maiarelli Studio cover photography
Jim Tynan contributors
Aaron Blye Mindy Berman Regina Heimbruch Naeem Holman JJ Johnson Allison Krause Bryn Lloyd-Bollard Erin Mei Desiree Taylor Sarah Wilson
bargaining agreements once thought to be impossible; • Members uniting against employers who flout the rule of law and holding them accountable; • Veteran delegates passing knowledge to new generations of 1199ers to maintain Union strength and member activism; • Caregivers courageously organizing new shops, often in the face of fierce management opposition. As President Gresham regularly reminds us: nothing is given to us. 1199ers have fought hard and know how fleeting our gains may be. With that in mind we stand on the shoulders of our forebears, looking together toward the future and never forgetting the lessons of our past.
1199 Magazine is published six times a year—January/ February, March/ April, May/June, July/ August, September/ October, November/ December—for $15.00 per year by 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East, 310 W. 43 St, New York, NY 10036. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to 1199 Magazine, 310 W. 43 St., New York, NY 10036.
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1199SEIU NEW JERSEY: 1199 and Garden State Cares members witnessed history being made as the $15 minimum wage bill was voted on by its last Assembly committee and is getting ready for final passage! As we celebrate the fact that our state will soon be on its way towards $15, we also recognize the incredible urgency of passing the nursing home staffing bill, #A382. We need to be able to provide for our own families AND give #CompassionateCare to the seniors who depend on us everyday! #FightFor15 #FightForStaffing
1199SEIUFLORIDA: Several of our nurses joined their peers from around the country at the Nurse Alliance Leadership Committee meeting in Washington, D.C. recently to review priorities and plans for 2019. Congratulations to @seiu1991 President Martha Baker for her new leadership role as the RN Chair of the Nurse Alliance. and other allies to fight for a $15 minimum wage. #WeCareForFL
@1199MASS: Our 2019 Leaders-in-Training (LIT) Program launches today! LIT program participants convene monthly to learn worksite unionbuilding techniques such as assessing your chapter, leading effective meetings, strategic planning, and mobilizing/ organizing members. #1u #union
@1199mass: Nursing homes throughout Mass. face ‘colossal collapse’ from Medicaid shortfall https://bit.ly/2RXi5Cx
1199SEIU MARYLAND/DC: We will continue to stand with the furloughed federal government employees of AFGE until the #trumpshutdown is over! #governmentshutdown #1199seiu #1199seiumddc
1199 Magazine would like to clarify a quote from Jackie Jones, a housekeeper at Dry Harbor Nursing Home in Queens, NY, that appeared in the September/October 2018 issue. Ms. Jones’ quote unintentionally emphasized the issue at Dry Harbor. Her quote, in fact, meant to point out challenges faced industry-wide. We regret the error.
Let’s hear from you. Send your letters to: 1199 Magazine, 330 W. 42nd St, 7th Fl., New York, NY 10036, Attn: 1199 Magazine, Editor; or email them to email@example.com. Please put “Letters” in the subject line of your email.
@1199SEIU: #1199 home care workers were out in force this morning in front of Elderplan in Brooklyn demanding Be Fair to Those Who Care! #UnionStrong #UniteFightWin
1199SEIUFLORIDA: 21 cents—that’s how much Florida’s minimum wage increased on January 1, 2019. You can’t buy a cup of coffee never mind feed your family on this pocket change. That’s why 1199 will continue to work with @fightfor15florida and other allies to fight for a $15 minimum wage. #WeCareForFL
READ MORE: Look for this icon and check out expanded, online versions of these stories.
President Trump’s Shutdown Learning Curve Shuttering the government taught the administration about worker power. The President’s Column by George Gresham
President Trump taught us a few lessons when he shut down much of the federal government for several weeks, beginning during the holidays. We learned that he was willing to blackmail taxpayers into giving him $5.7 billion to start building his beloved wall. (The same one he promised that Mexico would pay for.) We learned—once again—that he doesn’t know how the government works. (After his first two years in office treating Congress as his servants, he now faces a Democraticled House of Representatives that knows Congress is a separate, coequal branch under the Constitution.) We learned that the security of airline passengers; the safety of our food and medicine; the protection of our air and water; the care of our national parks; the security of our nuclear stockpiles, the ability of millions of low-income children and families to feed themselves, and hundreds of other services provided by the federal government and paid for by our taxes—all mean less than nothing, or at least less than his fantasy wall, to this president. But perhaps most important, we learned of Mr. Trump’s utter disregard for and hostility to working people (particularly to the 800,000 federal employees who provide the abovementioned services and whom he expected to work without pay). Perhaps we are being unfair in placing this contempt solely on Mr. Trump. In supporting the shutdown virtually every member of the Republican Party showed allegiance not to the people who elected them, but to the worst president in the history of the United States. We should not be surprised by Mr. Trump. He came to Washington with a decades-long history of fighting labor unions, stiffing building contractors and paying below
minimum wage to the workers (many of them undocumented immigrants) who construct his buildings and care for his resorts and casinos. This is a guy who inherited some $450 million from his father and whose Commerce Secretary responded to furloughed federal workers by suggesting they “take a loan” to cover expenses. In the meantime, many of these workers couldn’t pay their rents and mortgages; they were forced to use food banks to feed their families and drive Ubers or do other temp jobs for the five weeks they were locked out. Mr. Trump and his cabinet of billionaires would likely have kept the lock-out going for another month were it not for the leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who, newly empowered by the Democratic takeover in the midterm elections, showed the president how government is supposed to function. Workers also fought back, especially those in the airline industry. Things really shifted when TSA worker sick-outs began to threaten airline safety and partially close airports in New York, New Jersey, Atlanta and elsewhere. Air traffic controllers warned of an impending catastrophe. And it probably wasn’t coincidental that President Trump caved on the shutdown a day after the flight attendants’ union called for a general strike of all airline workers. In the beginning, Mr. Trump appeared eager for the shutdown and to claim credit for it. Such contempt for working people is in keeping with the entire thrust of this White House and its Republican enablers in Congress. We have seen time and time again their manipulation of our government, public institutions, and longstanding conventions for their own gain. They pack the U.S. Supreme Court with Far Right ideologues who eventually rule in
favor of anti-union right-to-work laws. The administration, incompetent about so many things, gutted with almost surgical precision the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Labor Relations Board and hundreds of environmental protections. And of course, the signature Trump White House issue, which is backed overwhelmingly by Republican lawmakers, is hostility toward the immigrant workers who harvest our crops, toil in the kitchens of our eating facilities, landscape our neighborhoods and carry out the infinite number of unseen responsibilities that make society function (all while being poorly paid, and often going without health care and other basic protections of a civilized country). What other great lessons did we learn from the shutdown and lockout of federal workers? First, that there is great power when workers organize, unite and fight for what is right. And second, that elections have consequences—be it the 2016 presidential election or the 2018 midterms. Best get ready now: 2020 is coming.
Such contempt for working people is in keeping with the entire thrust of this White House and its Republican enablers in Congress.
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Around the Regions Alaris workers picketing at Harbor View in Jersey City.
Alaris Health Violated Federal Law, Labor Board Finds The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued four late December decisions affirming a judge’s 2016 rulings that New Jersey’s Alaris Health engaged in unlawful behavior towards employees who went on strike in 2014. Alaris Health, one of New Jersey’s largest nursing home chains, operates nearly 20 facilities in Hudson, Essex, Bergen, and Union counties. Between
2013 and 2017, the most recent years where data is available, Alaris nursing homes earned a combined profit exceeding $65 million dollars, according to data from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Most of its revenue comes from public sources, Medicaid and Medicare. For the past five years, some 450 caregivers have been in a labor dispute with Alaris over the terms of new
Alaris facilities were found guilty of various illegal actions including coercively interrogating and threatening workers, engaging in illegal surveillance of workers, retaliating against workers for union activity, and refusing to bargain in good faith with their union.
union contracts. Workers are seeking basic improvements, including affordable family health insurance, improved staffing levels, and higher wages. Many workers earn less than $23,000 a year. Back in September, 2014, caregivers at four Alaris homes went on a three-day strike after the management at the facilities committed a number of unfair labor practices (ULPs) against them, including threatening and interrogating employees and obstructing their legally-protected right to bargain over their working conditions. Workers at the four facilities— Alaris Health at Boulevard East in Guttenberg, Alaris Health at Castle Hill in Union City, Alaris Health at HarborView in Jersey City, and Alaris Health at Rochelle Park in Rochelle Park—lauded the NLRB’s decision. All four facilities violated federal law in refusing to allow members back on the job after they unconditionally agreed to return to work when the strike ended. The facilities were ordered to compensate affected employees and to cease and desist from refusing to bargain in good faith with the Union. These rulings affirm and add to a litany of legal decisions in recent years where Alaris facilities were found guilty of various illegal actions including coercively interrogating and threatening workers, engaging in illegal surveillance of workers, retaliating against workers for union activity, and refusing to bargain in good faith with their union. The decisions can be found on the NLRB website.
Black History Month Celebrations 1199ers in NYC and New York State’s Hudson Valley celebrated Black History Month with a pair of events celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At 1199SEIU’s Manhattan headquarters on February 1, the one-man show “ML: The King” drew a full house for its exploration of Dr. King’s early life and formative experiences. At the Catherine Street Community Center in Poughkeepsie on Jan. 25, 1199ers were among the scores who attended an annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast. The event celebrates the life of Dr. King and honors community members whose 6
work reflects his spirit and teachings. Channel Kelley, a CNA at The Eleanor Nursing Care Center in Hyde Park, was among the members in 1199’s contingent. “It was an honor to attend the Catharine Street Center Breakfast that celebrates the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.," said Kelley. "This is the 28th year of the event. 1199 members at Vassar Hospital were among the first group of activists to organize this event and we are still very involved. It started in a small community room. This year it was held in a packed Catherine Street Community Center in Poughkeepsie.”
A scene from "ML: The King," which was performed on Feb. 1 at 1199’s NYC headquarters.
Florida Maryland Massachusetts New Jersey New York Washington, D.C.
1199ers hosted a January event demanding the preservation of Temporary Protected Status for immigrants.
Facing Attacks on TPS & DREAMers, 1199ers Vow Immigrants Are #HereToStay! 1199 members hail from virtually every country on the globe. Now, many workers and their families, who have laid down decades-old roots, are facing deportation through no fault of their own. Extremist politicians in Washington, D.C. are moving to strip long-standing legal protections from million of U.S. residents, including from thousands of 1199 members. This attack on Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a humanitarian provision in U.S. immigration law that allows people to live and work in the U.S. during the aftermath of a natural disaster or outbreak of conflict in their home country, is under attack. Affected are U.S. residents from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Many have either lost their legal status or are at risk of losing it soon. Also, some 3.6 million young people, known as DREAMers (named after the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) still do not have formal status or a path to citizenship. Most DREAMers were brought as minors to the U.S. by their parents, and this is where they have grown up and attended school. Among the DREAMers is a group of
roughly 800,000 young people who are eligible for DACA, an Obamaera deferred action immigration measure which protects people who came to the U.S. before their 16th birthday and meet other criteria. Though DACA has survived numerous legal challenges since the Republicans took power in 2016, the DREAM Act has yet to be passed into law, leaving millions of young people vulnerable in the current administration’s war on immigrants. It’s estimated that one million people across the U.S. could lose their legal status in the next year if these attacks on immigrants succeed, so 1199ers have joined the fightback. Along with their sisters and brothers from other SEIU locals, and numerous coalition partners, 1199ers are pressing Congress to pass the DREAM Act and make permanent protections for TPS holders. House Democrats have pledged to introduce such a bill in their first 100 days in office since they took control in November 2018. For more information or if you are facing loss of your legal status, you can find organizations that provide free legal advice in your area by entering your zip code at http://iamerica.org/find-legal-help.
Members Vote Down HCA Affiliates’ Proposed Cuts to Dental & Retirement Restoration Plans
In early January, nurses and other healthcare employees who work at HCA-affiliated hospitals in Central and South Florida overwhelmingly rejected a proposal that would have cut their existing benefits. HCA-affiliated hospitals offered the proposed cuts in exchange for new benefits, despite the company’s $3 billion in profits during the first nine months of 2018 and their earlier promise to invest the majority of a $500 million tax windfall in new employee benefits. The proposal from HCA-affiliated hospitals would have taken away dental and retirement benefits to offset costs for family leave, tuition and student loan plans. HCA publicly announced last summer that the company would use the Trump corporate tax windfall to invest in employees. The benefit-change proposal was in addition to other recent changes HCA-affiliated hospitals have made to health insurance and 401K plans that increase out-ofpocket costs for employees. “I have a family to support and I can’t afford to pay any more out of my pocket,” said Leora Stirrat, a certified
unit coordinator and cardiac monitor technician who has worked at Blake Medical center for the past 40 years. “We need HCA-affiliated facilities to step up and honor the announcement they made and invest in us, their employees.” Prior to voting on the proposal, members participated in press conferences at three HCA-affiliated hospitals in Central and South Florida to express their concerns. Workers also shared stories about the proposed cuts and the impact they would have on their families. “As a single income parent, my budget is very tight,” said Karen Wong, an RN at JFK Medical North in West Palm Beach.“Any additional out of pocket costs would take a toll on me, my family and many of my colleagues.” The widespread rejection of the plan sent a strong message to HCA-affiliated hospitals: Nurses and healthcare workers are united and committed to protecting their benefits. Employees are calling on HCA-affiliated hospitals in Florida to follow through on their plan to fund new benefits from corporate tax breaks instead of by cutting existing benefits.
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NYS 1199ERS BRING THE HEAT TO ALBANY ON
LOBBY DAY No snow day for caregivers delivering the message to reject cuts and protect health care.
A couple of things are dependable in New York State’s capital in January: Ankle-deep snow and push-and-pull state budget discussions. Undaunted by either, hundreds of 1199SEIU members boarded buses and vans in the snow and headed to Albany Feb. 12 for a Lobby Day. There, workers walked the capital halls and met with state lawmakers to focus their attention on the crucial need to protect Medicaid funding, push back against cuts and eliminate greed and corruption from our publicly-funded healthcare system. Retired RN Maureen Miller was part of the group that met with representatives of Queens, including State Senator Michael Gianaris. It’s important that politicians hear from us what is really happening when they are talking about anything having to do with healthcare, especially nursing homes and homecare,” said Miller. “Any one of us could be in a
“I have always advocated for 1199 and for our patients. And I’ll continue to do it. I have my child’s future and all of our futures to think about.” – Sandy Laing, Northwell Health Business Office Clerical
t 1199ers send the message to protect health care at Feb. 12 Lobby Day in Albany, NY.
Members with NYS Senate Majority Leader Andrea StewartCousins (center).
Housekeeper Sean Schmidt discusses the need for nursing home staffing reforms.
position to need them at any time, so we have to make sure they are funded, and services are available.” Members met legislators and their representatives from the spectrum of New York State’s districts, and the conversations made clear the universal need to preserve healthcare funding in the face of a multi-billion-dollar Medicaid shortfall. Workers shared personal stories and deep concerns about quality care and the financial well-being of the state’s healthcare institutions. They spoke with officials about healthcare’s
significance to their families as well as their broader communities. Members spoke not only from their roles as experienced professional caregivers, but also as parents, children, heads of households and patients. “Doing this benefits all of us,” said Habib Ahmed, a pharmacy tech at a Manhattan Rite Aid. “We need to do this because so much in healthcare depends on the budget. We want a secure and healthy future for us at work and at home. We can’t have it if the funding isn’t there.”
“I’ve only worked in my nursing home for a year and a half, and I can see the problem of understaffing very clearly.” – Sean Schmidt, Housekeeper at Meadow Park Nursing Home in Queens
1199ers’ Lobby Day agenda also included increased transparency and oversight for nursing homes and the elimination of ‘bad actors’ from the home care industry. As the number of ‘Fiscal Intermediaries’ has exploded in home care, bad actors in the industry have been siphoning millions of Medicaid dollars to fund lavish lifestyles, while caregivers struggle to pay rent and feed families. “We really need our elected representatives to work with us and push these things,” said Homecare Organizer Inneshia Hart in discussing the pushback against funding cuts. Hart also pointed out the need for much more transparency and oversight to make the system more efficient. Sean Schmidt, a housekeeper at Meadow Park Nursing Home in Queens, said improved oversight of the nursing home industry would be a win-win. Higher standards, strengthening DOH oversight and appointing independent monitors would vastly improve workers’ ability to provide quality care, he said. “I’ve only worked in my nursing home for a year and a half, and I can see the problem of understaffing very clearly,” said Schmidt. “If someone calls in sick it affects everything. I work in a nursing home that’s in the neighborhood I grew up in. Our residents are members of my community. I don’t like to see this happening to them.” The day ended with words of encouragement from NYS Senate Majority Leader Andrea StewartCousins and Speaker of the Assembly Carl Heastie. “People depend on you for their health and their lives,” StewartCousins affirmed, “and you deserve the ability to prosper.” Northwell Health Business Office Clerical Sandy Laing, who brought her seven-year-old daughter Phoebe on the trip, was energized by the day and her meetings with lawmakers. “I have always advocated for 1199 and for our patients. And I’ll continue to do it. I have my child’s future and all of our futures to think about.”
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NYC 1199ERS HOST PUBLIC ADVOCATE FORUM Candidates for New York City’s watchdog answered questions at January event.
At press time, New York City residents were set to vote for a new Public Advocate in an election scheduled for Feb. 26. So, to help inform members and provide an opportunity for candidates to present their platforms to the city’s working people, 1199SEIU members hosted a Jan. 17 forum at the Union’s Manhattan headquarters. At the event, candidates discussed their vision for New York City, their plans for implementing change, and their role in formulating policy. 10
1199ers questioned NYC Public Advocate candidates at a forum held Jan. 17 at the Union's NYC headquarters.
“This kind of event gives members an opportunity to hear what candidates really have to say.” — Kendorn Blackwood, Building Service Worker at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Brooklyn
Member Political Organizer Ruth Denton was impressed with the energy in the room and level of transparency among the candidates. “It gave our members as political activists the ability to make a choice about who is best to represent the City and the best choice for their district,” said Denton. The Public Advocate is the city’s official watchdog role and is responsible for directly connecting the electorate to the public officials who represent them. Though the Union event was not intended to facilitate an endorsement decision, the sometimes-fiery forum gave members the opportunity to make an informed voting decision by speaking directly with candidates. Questions were wide ranging and intended to explore on a host of issues critical to the city’s working families. Members’ inquiries ranged from bread-andbutter topics like resources for seniors and health care, to more philosophical and personal subjects like courage and justice. The winner of February’s special election will fill the seat left vacant
by Letitia James, who New Yorkers elected as the State’s Attorney General in November 2018. At press time, there were 16 declared candidates in the race; five of them attended the 1199 forum. They were New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, City Council Member Jumaane Williams, NYS Assembly Member Michael Blake and New York State Assembly Member Latrice Walker. Kendorn Blackwood, a building service worker at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Brooklyn, was among the members who questioned the candidates; Blackwood wanted to know about the candidates’ plans to help New York City’s seniors. The inquiry brought an array of answers, but generally candidates focused on the need to end program cuts and ensure access to service and the ability to age in place with dignity. Blackwood admitted to a case of nerves when stepping up to the microphone but was impressed with the energy in the room—among both the member and candidates. “This kind of event gives members an opportunity to hear what candidates really have to say,” said Blackwood. “We can decide who is the candidate who is really going to stand with me on a picket line or when a contract is up.” Audrey Stokes, a CNA at Palm Gardens Nursing Home in Brooklyn, was impressed with the candidates but said she would reserve judgement until closer to Election Day. “There was definitely a lot of energy in the room and it was good, but how are they going to fulfill their promises?” Stokes inquired. “All of the stuff we heard about: insurance, retirees, housing—they all said something good, but we need to see how they will make things happen.”
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CENTRAL STERILE TECHS AT BROCKTON'S GOOD SAMARITAN HOSPITAL THE WORK WE DO
Central Sterile Technicians (CSTs) are responsible for the decontamination, cleaning, sterilization, packaging, and distribution of surgical and medical supplies. At Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, MA, a department of 10 techs works roundthe-clock to ensure the safety and health of patients and staff. Good Sam CSTs handle all manner of surgical equipment—from clamps to pieces of surgical robots. The department also services a number of Boston-area hospitals, ensuring that some of the world’s most advanced medical care is performed in healthy and safe environments. 12
1. Service Tech Alex Carmona helps keep the central sterilization area organized and makes sure operating rooms have the equipment they need: “I work with the case pickers for each [surgical] case. They make sure the surgeons have what they need and the kinds of instruments they prefer. They really help us out because they can foresee what doctors are going to need so we can have it ready for them.”
2. Marsela Vrapi has worked at Good Sam for five years: “These are instruments that come from all over the hospital—the OR, oncology, pharmacy, x-ray. We even get
instruments from other hospitals. People don’t understand that what we do isn’t just washing things by dunking them in hot water. Different instruments require different procedures. If instruments go upstairs with dirt or debris on them, they can be dangerous. We make sure everything that touches patients is clean and wrapped properly.” 3. Michael Duquette was an Army medic for six years: “I worked at the VA for two years, then applied to Brockton. Sometimes when I tell people what I do, they look at me like I have two heads. This work is kind of unique.“
“Sometimes when I tell people what I do, they look at me like I have two heads. This work is kind of unique.“ — Michael Duquette
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THE WORK WE DO
4. Jose Zayas started in Good Sam’s Central Processing Dept. when he was 17; he’s been a Central Sterile Tech for six months: “You can have the best surgeons in the world working in a hospital, and if the instruments are dirty, none of that matters. We used to be viewed as glorified dishwashers, but [what we do] is an important process, and it must be done right. Every tech has to learn about the science [of sterilization] and the roles of the instruments we handle.”
5. Tony Rodrigues is a driver who works with the Patient Transport and Central Sterile Departments at Good Sam: “I go to different sites for pickup and delivery. We handle instruments from ORs at other hospitals.” 6. Ramon McIntosh started as an intern at Good Sam and has been working as a Central Sterile Tech for a year and a half.
O U R D E L E G AT E S
Buffalo LPN Brenda Anderson’s Work is a Labor of Love “Working in a nursing home is not meant for everybody. It is real work. It must be in your heart.” Brenda Anderson has worked as an LPN in Buffalo nursing homes for 25 years, and for most of them she’s been a union delegate. When the home where she was working 11 years ago closed, Catholic Health offered her a job at St. Catherine Laboure nursing home because of her long service with the organization. Her first order of business when she arrived at St. Catherine’s was to spark a campaign to organize the workers there by explaining the benefits of 1199SEIU membership. “When I first started in nursing homes, I was making $5 or $6 an hour and living below the poverty line. I know how important coming together in union is, if we’re going to fight for better pay and conditions,” said Anderson. “We need management to be able to sit down with us, so we can go back and forth and understand what we’re doing in the trenches,” she added, “as opposed to them just imposing policies and procedures on us.” It took patience over several years of organizing at St. Catherine’s, but when the issue was put to a vote in 2008, workers voted yes for 1199SEIU membership by an overwhelming margin of 88 to 2. “You feel really good when you come into work, and you’re not worried about some new policy being imposed: You can just concentrate on the patients,” recalled Anderson, “Before we had a contract, a family could say x, y and z about you, and you could be fired. Often, they wouldn’t even listen to our side of the story. We were ‘at will’ employees. “During our union campaign, we heard horror stories about how we
would all lose our jobs if we voted to join 1199. But most of the people who were here when we first organized are still here,” said Anderson. Anderson’s work as a delegate is about fairness, relationship building and communication. She shared a story of representing a co-worker who was facing disciplinary action. The worker who lives in Darien, NY, a 45-minute drive from the facility, was unable to get to work because of a storm-felled tree in her driveway. Anderson immediately began investigating what really happened and was able to help turn things around. “There is a no excuses policy on absences at St. Catherine’s,” said Anderson, “But we brought in newspaper clippings about the storm and explained the situation to the administrator and they made an exception. That is when I first knew that we would be able to work with the new management.” As well as making sure the contract is followed in the nursing home and serving on the bargaining committee to negotiate better wages and conditions when the contract comes up for renewal, Anderson also understands the value of political action. She has gone with fellow 1199ers to Albany to lobby for muchneeded healthcare dollars. “We had a big victory when they brought in Paid Family Leave. I haven’t used it yet myself, but everybody knows somebody who has,” she said. “We will get there on safe staffing legislation, too. It is challenging, but we need to keep fighting and never give up.” In addition to her work as a
1199 delegate at St. Catherine Laboure nursing home in Buffalo, NY.
“I know how important coming together in union is, if we're going to fight for better pay and conditions.”
delegate, Anderson is responsible for looking after 20 residents at a time. There are 40 residents in total on the floor where she works. Staffing levels at the home are still not ideal, said Anderson. “Making sure that the residentto-staff ratio is what it should be is something that is going to take a long time to achieve. There is no legislation for it in New York State,” she points out. Anderson is determined to help change that, but in the meantime the residents who depend on her every day remain her priority. “Sometimes it is just about having a moment to give a resident a hug,” she said, “But we also want to be able to feel comfortable spending 15 minutes talking to a resident and listening to them reminisce. Even if I miss a break, I try to find time for my ladies and gents. “Working in a nursing home is not meant for everybody. It is real work. It must be in your heart. You can’t just come to work for the paycheck. We’re all going to be here someday.”
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P O L I T I C A L AC T I O N
ď ´ Buffalo, NY nursing home workers attended a Jan. 24 health and safety training with the NYS Dept. of Health.
NH Safety Concerns Drive Collaboration in Western NY NYS Dept. of Health conducts inaugural training in Buffalo
Over the last several years, Western New York has seen a marked increase in the number of for-profit nursing homes owned by out-of-town operators. As nursing home owners continue to transition non-profit facilities to for-profit entities, both 1199SEIU and state regulators are recording an upswing in short staffing-related incidents among workers and patients. Workers at understaffed nursing homes and rehabs are struggling to provide the highest quality care in what has been described as a â€œtoxic cocktailâ€? of understaffing, inadequate policy, and a higher-needs patient population. The pattern and its effects on nursing home caregivers and residents was the focus of a recent investigation by The Buffalo News as well as a story in the September/ October 2018 1199 Magazine. To combat this problem, ensure that residents receive high-quality care, and put irresponsible owners
Members were trained on what incidents to report, how to do it and what information must be included.
on notice, 1199SEIU Upstate invited Mark Hennessey, Director of the Center for Provider Services and Oversight at the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), to the Union’s Buffalo office to conduct a January 24 worker training on how the NYSDOH can assist in the fight against short staffing and its effects on quality care. The 1199 Training and Upgrading Fund, which provides free courses to eligible 1199 members in a wide variety of topics including mental health, first aid, communication skills and workplace safety, was also at the event. “As part of our Workforce Investment Organization initiative, our union is helping our 100,000 home health aides, nursing home workers and other long-term care members build the skills they need to be successful,” stressed Sandi Vito, Executive Director of 1199SEIU
Training and Employment Funds. Dozens of 1199SEIU nursing home members attended the event. Union members learned how to best report to the DOH incidences of unsafe staffing, lack of supplies and proper lifting equipment. Members expressed enthusiasm about the training, which was the first of its kind in New York. “We have to recognize that these facilities are people’s homes. When we talk about them we should take the ‘nursing’ off and just call them homes,” Tanya Goffe, an 1199SEIU delegate who works as a CNA at Safire Northtowns Nursing Home in Tonawanda, NY, just outside Buffalo. Hennessey emphasized his office’s commitment to nursing home workers, training and the best ways to protect residents. Members were trained on what incidents to report, how to do it and what information
must be included. The goal is to improve enforcement of care standards and support the caregivers who look after some of our most vulnerable and high-needs nursing home residents. “We want to make sure that our residents get the care they deserve,” added Goffe. 1199SEIU Long Term Care VP Todd Hobler highlighted the central role many workers play in their patients’ lives. “Many of these residents do not have family members to advocate for them and ensure high quality care. The state authorities cannot monitor each institution round the clock,” explained Hobler. “Members are on the front line of providing care to seniors that is largely funded by tax payers. They are very committed to this responsibility, but they must have adequate staffing and equipment to carry it out effectively.”
“We have to recognize that these facilities are people’s homes. When we talk about them we should take the ‘nursing’ off and just call them homes.” – Tanya Goffe, 1199SEIU delegate, CNA at Safire Northtowns Nursing Home in Tonawanda, NY
Tanya Goffe, discussed challenges at her work place during the January training.
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“Our Contracts Are Our Rights and Privileges” Veteran 1199ers discuss the importance of knowing collective bargaining agreements.
Union contracts are not simply wage schedules, contrary to what anti-union forces would have us believe. The documents do enumerate wages, but they also stipulate important benefits and, in many cases, provide workers with more protections than state and federal laws. “Our contracts outline our rights and privileges,” says Fred Hicks, an 1199 Executive Council member, and a porter and delegate for 47 years at Staten Island’s Silver Lake NH. “It is our workplace bible.” Hicks was not yet an 1199 member when he entered the workforce nearly five decades ago, but the Union had already laid the groundwork for today’s gold standard of wages and benefits: the 1968 contract with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Nursing Homes. At the time, 1199 had grown to almost 40,000 members after its 1959 start as a union of 5,000 workers. Members had also won the groundbreaking $100 minimum weekly wage, greatly expanded health benefits and established a Training Fund financed by 18
management. The 1968 contract was also a model for today’s agreements in the establishment of processes for labor-management cooperation and clear parameters for workplace problem-solving. “I used to work at a non-union institution without a contract and where workers had to do whatever they were told, with no questions asked,” says Pat Diaz, a delegate and RN at University Hospital in Tamarac, FL. Contracts spell out rights and provide protection against abuse, notes Lucy CaulkerNelson, a patient care technician and delegate at Prince George’s Hospital in Cheverly, MD. “A contract helps create stability and ensure that we have a safe workplace,” says Patricia Thomas, a veteran PCA at Beth Israel Brooklyn in New York City. In fact, many unions were born out of the fight for healthy and safe workplaces. And on a broader scale, unions have fought for and won important regulations and driven the creation of enforcement entities such as the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). A safer environment for workers, whether guaranteed by legislation or collective bargaining, creates a safer environment for patients and workers, adds Thomas. To that end, 1199ers continue to participate in weekly Health & Safety courses offered at the Union’s Manhattan headquarters. Veteran delegates also stress the reflection of union strength in our contracts. “What is in that document was written with our blood, sweat, tears and unity,” says Hicks, affirming the necessity of familiarity with their collective bargaining agreements. Diaz also encourages workers to know their contract: “Having a good contract and a strong union is not just in the interest of the workforce, it also means that we all can be better patient advocates,” she says. With so much at stake, delegates must also be watchdogs, says Thomas, noting the current era of consolidation and outsourcing. It’s vital for
Fred Hicks, a porter at Silver Lake NH on Staten Island, NY. Lucy CaulkerNelson, a PCT at Prince Georges Hospital in Cheverly, MD.
“What is in that document was written with our blood, sweat, tears and unity,” – Fred Hicks, 1199 Executive Council member, and a porter and delegate for 47 years at Staten Island’s Silver Lake NH
workers to prevent contracts’ misinterpretation or misuse, says Diaz. It’s especially important in places like Florida, a right to work state, in which workers are not required to join the Union. Contracts are only as strong as the delegates and members who enforce them, veteran delegates say. For example, at Prince George’s, a new affiliation has led to the transfer of new workers and supervisors unfamiliar with the collective bargaining agreement. Caulker-Nelson has tried to build cooperation and Union strength by providing highlighted copies of the contract to supervisors, so they will understand contract violations. Thomas says that the experienced delegates are quicker to spot a past-practice violation, but that does not negate the importance of developing younger, less experienced leaders. “As a delegate, I work with the members, not just for them,” Diaz says. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” 1199 Magazine 19
THANK U, NEXT.
Members stand behind their proposals and win at the bargaining table
In New York’s Hudson Valley, caregivers signaled a new level of worker strength with the January settlement and ratification of a collective bargaining agreement at Poughkeepsie’s MidHudson Regional Hospital of Westchester Medical Center. “They saw we were ready to walk and do whatever is necessary at this facility to win a fair contract,” said Sandra Chisolm, a rehab tech at the institution for eight years. Chisolm said the inequity of management’s proposals mobilized members. “I went up to their lead attorney one time and said to him, ‘You have good medical coverage, why shouldn’t we have it? Why do you want to stop us from eating?’ and he just got red in the face.” Central to the contentious talks was coverage under the 1199SEIU National Benefit Fund. MidHudson Regional workers were previously covered under the hospital’s own plan, but over the years co-payments and deductibles ballooned. “I don’t think [management] really understood how many hardworking people they have at their institution,” said Williams. “People who if they get sick—even though they work in a healthcare institution—can’t afford to go to the doctor.” 20
“I went up to their lead attorney and said to him, ‘You have good medical coverage, why shouldn’t we have it? Why do you want to stop us from eating?’ And he just got red in the face.” – Sandra Chisolm, Rehab Tech at MidHudson Regional Hospital of Westchester Medical Center
Members’ determination paid off; they secured the NBF, three percent raises and a lump sum bonus which was scheduled to be paid out in January. The pact is the second 1199SEIU contract for the 900-member bargaining unit, which organized in 2014. “Now we have to prepare for the next level,” says Williams. “Even though the next contract is three years off we have to make sure we are ready. We are going to organize this whole shop. Once our benefits and raises kick in people will see what it’s worth and everyone will want to join the union.” Workers at St.Lukes Hospital in New York’s Hudson Valley in January settled a new, three-year contract that includes three 3% wage increases, uniform allowance increases and inclusion in the 1199 National Benefit Fund. In early January, New Jersey 1199ers celebrated a pair of agreements that include significant wage increases and major improvements to healthcare costs for members. Throughout a long contract battle with AristaCare at the company’s Manchester and Delaire sites, members stood together despite management’s continual bid to test their resolve. At AristaCare Delaire in Linden, members negotiated a 3% wage
increase on ratification and a further 2% on July 1, 2019 and 2.5% on July 1, 2020. Full-time employees who currently have at least 10 years of service will receive a $250 bonus every December from 2020. At AristaCare Manchester in Manchester Township, members negotiated an agreement that provides significant improvements to healthcare costs, substantially increases management contributions to workers’ 401k plan and improves layoff language, strengthens the existing grievance procedure and restricts management from doing bargaining unit work. The improvements to pay and benefits that members negotiated in these agreements will provide leverage for members at AristaCare in Cedar Oaks, South Plainfield, who are still in negotiations and for Manchester Pediatric workers who are negotiating a first contract after voting to form a union there last May. And in January, Florida members at seven Tenet Hospitals represented by 1199SEIU, workers negotiated contracts that secured improved staffing language and guaranteed raises. Bargaining committee members and rank-andfilers were united in the goal of
1199ers made significant gains in recent contract negotiations. Top to bottom: Tenet Hospitals in Florida, St. Luke's in New York's Hudson Valley and Mid Hudson Regional in Poughkeepsie, NY.
“I am proud of the progress we made. We were able to achieve our goals by working together.” – Clark Buchan, Hyperbaric Technician, Tenet Hospitals
strong contracts to guarantee acrossthe-board wage increases and the ability to review staffing levels at the hospitals. “I’m very glad we were able to make improvements, especially when it comes to staffing,” said RN Helen Scaracelli. “It’s really important to see the staffing matrix so that we’ll have a reference guide to address any issues on a day-to-day basis.” Last summer, workers raised concerns about staffing levels with local hospital executives, and even traveled to Tenet’s corporate office in Texas to bring their concerns to the CEO and hand delivered safer staffing petitions with 1,300 signatures. Subsequent bargaining sessions paved the way for new language that was added to the new contract. The new contracts require hospitals to share their matrices with the union, and to make them available in every staffing unit. “We worked very hard and diligently to get important issues addressed and a lot of them have been,” said Clark Buchan, a Hyperbaric Technician. “I am proud of the progress we made. We were able to achieve our goals by working together.”
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E I T C
It’s Tax Time!
Make sure your tax refund is all it can be with the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Call Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) to locate sites near you. If you can’t find a convenient site near you, there are additional Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites that offer free tax preparation. Call the VITA Site Locator Hotline at (800) 906-9887 or use the VITA Site Locator Tool at www.IRS.gov/ Individuals/Find-a-Locationfor-Free-Tax-Prep to locate your nearest VITA site and find hours of operation and contact numbers.
1199SEIU and the National Benefit Fund are again making available a free tax prep program for members, so they can pay only the taxes they owe and apply for the Earned Income Tax Credit, a tax refund for low-to-moderate income families. Since its inception in 1999, the program has helped NYC members alone file for $100 million dollars in refunds. The program works with professional tax preparers at sites throughout the Union’s regions to help members prepare their taxes free of charge. Below is what you’ll need to file for the EITC and site locations, dates and times. Call the listed numbers for more information.
What You Need to Bring to File for the EITC:
Springfield 20 Maple Street Wed. & Fri.: 4:30 - 8:00 pm; Sat.: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
• Your spouse. If you are filing a joint return your spouse must be present. • Government-issued photo ID • Social Security Card • All applicable forms from 2018, including W-2, 1099, 1098-T, 1095-A, 1095-B/1095-C, 1098 and 1098-E. • Tax Employer Identification Number and SSN of your child care provider if you are claiming child care expenses • Sample check with routing number if you’d like direct deposit of your refund • Amounts of any other income such as jury fees or gambling winnings • A copy of last year’s tax returns 22
611 North Eutaw Street, Baltimore Call (443) 449-2019 January 28 to April 12 Tue., Wed. & Thur.: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm; Fri. & Sat.: 9:00 am to 4:00 pm Sunday and Monday: Closed Massachusetts Please call (617) 284-1199 Both locations are by appointment only Quincy 108 Myrtle Street Tues., Wed. & Fri.: 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm Sat.: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Upstate New York Buffalo 2421 Main Street, Suite 100 Call (716) 982-0540, AmySue at ext. 3721 or Kim at ext. 3724 January 28 to April 15 Monday to Thursday: 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm Saturdays (2/4, 2/16, 3/2, 3/16, 4/6, & 4/13) 10:00 am to 3:00 pm North Country - Gouverneur 93 E. Main Street, Gouverneur
(315) 287-9013 ext. 11 February 2 to April 6 Monday & Thursday: 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm Saturday: 10:00 am to 2:00 pm Carthage March 9 Carthage Area Hospital 315-287-9013 ext. 11 Plattsburgh February 15, 16 & 17 Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital Call 315-287-9013 ext. 11 Rochester 259 Monroe Ave, Suite, 220, 2nd Fl. (585) 730-6433 January 28 to April 15 Tuesday: 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm, Thursday: 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm & Saturday: 9:00 am to 3:00 pm Strong Memorial Hospital 601 Elmwood Ave., Medical Center, Louise Slaughter Room 1-9555: 2/5, 2/12, 2/19, 2/26: 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm Syracuse EITC Free Tax Center 250 S. Clinton St. (315) 295-1822 January 28 to April 15, Mon to Thurs: 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm; Sat: 9:00 am to 2:00 pm Loretto January 30, 7:00 am to 4pm James Cecile Center February 2: 9:00 am to 3:00 pm Solvay High School February 9: 9:00 am to 3:00 pm Downstate New York and New Jersey Members in New Jersey and downstate New York, including New York City, Westchester County and Long Island, can go to www.1199SEIUBenefits.org/ EITC for information about EITC tax free preparation site locations, their hours of operation and contact information. Other resources and information are available on the NBF website
What do you know about voting? Take this Quiz!
Your vote is your voice. For more information about voting guidelines in your region or to register, talk to your organizer or delegate.
1. Historically, Election Day is first Tuesday in November so it won’t interfere with December school and federal holidays. True or False?
4. Which state recently passed a sweeping overhaul of its voting laws, including provisions to allow early voting, the pre-registration of minors, and the consolidation of state and primary election days? a) New York b) New Jersey c) California
7. Huuuge numbers of millennial voters put the group at the top of the turnout list. True or False?
8. Women vote in higher numbers than men. True or False? 9. You must register to vote 90 days before Election Day. True or False? MD
HOW DID YOU DO? 2. Native Americans have been eligible to vote nationally for about fifty years. True or False?
3. African Americans & other disenfranchised groups are protected by the Voting Rights Act. True or False?
5. If you want to vote by absentee ballot in Maryland, you must provide a valid reason. True or False?
6. Voters in which state recently restored voting rights to tens of thousands of formerlyincarcerated residents? a) Massachusetts Massechussetts b) Florida c) Ohio
1-False. The day was chosen to ensure that farmers wouldn’t have to interrupt harvest season or market day. 2-True. Native Americans did not have the right to vote in every state until 1962. 3-False. In 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a key section of 1965’s VRA requiring states with a history of discrimination to get federal permission before changing voting rules. Shortly after, 83 restrictive voting bills were introduced in 29 states. 4-New York. In January, New York’s legislature passed one of the most progressive overhauls of voting laws in history. 5-False. Marylanders don’t need a reason for requesting an absentee ballot. 6-Florida. In 2018, voters passed Proposition 3 and restored the voting rights of formerly incarcerated Floridians. 7-False. While millennials turn out to vote in record numbers, they’re outpaced by adults over 60, according to the US. Census Bureau. 8-True. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in every presidential election since 1980 turnout rates have been higher for women. 9-False. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia allow Election Day registration.
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A Labor of Love Delegate Brenda Anderson has been a devoted caregiver in Buffalo-area nursing homes for over two decades. See story on page 15.
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1199 Magazine January - February 2019 What We Do Is Important And It Must Be Done Right