Announcement of Balloting See Insert
A JOURNAL OF 1199SEIU February/March 2013
Chef Bernard Bowens, a delegate at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, MA for 25 years. See story on page 5.
Contents 3 1199SEIU’S FRONT LINE Our delegates lead by example. 4 PRESIDENT’S COLUMN We’ve got to answer the call and help keep our Union strong. 5 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE Long-serving delegates share their wisdom. 8 MEMBERS ATTEND PRES. OBAMA’S INAUGURATION Every region was represented. 9 OUR COMMUNITY LEADERS These members strengthen their chapter through community involvement. 10 SAFETY & HEALTH CLASSES SAVE LIVES Every day in the U.S. 12 workers are killed on the job. 11 MARYLAND’S MINIMUM WAGE CAMPAIGN 1199ers join the struggle to raise the state’s minimum wage. 12 THE WORK WE DO Delaire Gardens Assisted Living in Linden, NJ. 14 PURPLEGOLD HELPS YOUNG WORKERS Program reaches out to members struggling in economic downturn. 15 AROUND THE UNION PCA Training Fund classes. Our Life And Times editor retires. Citizenship Program Celebration.
p.8 Our Life And Times, February/March 2013, Vol. 31, No. 1 Published by 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East 310 West 43rd St. New York, NY 10036 Telephone (212) 582-1890 www.1199seiu.org
p.10 ACTI NG E DITOR :
Patricia Kenney DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY:
Jim Tynan PHOTOG RAPH E R : Belinda Gallegos ART DI RECTION & DES IG N :
Maiarelli Studio COVE R PHOTOG RAPH :
Jim Tynan PRES I DE NT :
George Gresham S EC RETARY TREASURE R :
Emily Rodriguez, a PCA from Springfield, MA
EXEC UTIVE VIC E PRES I DE NTS :
Norma Amsterdam Yvonne Armstrong Lisa Brown Angela Doyle George Kennedy Steve Kramer Patrick Lindsay Joyce Neil John Reid Bruce Richard Mike Rifkin Monica Russo Neva Shillingford Milly Silva Veronica Turner Laurie Vallone Estela Vazquez
Our Life And Times is published 6 times a year by 1199SEIU, 310 West 43rd St., New York, NY 10036. Subscriptions $15 per year. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY and additional mailing offices. ISSN 1080-3089. USPS 000-392. Postmaster: Send address changes to Our Life And Times, 310 West 43rd St., New York, NY 10036.
ROSE LINCOLN PHOTO
New York City-area delegates sworn in at June 15, 2010 Joint Delegate Assembly.
1199SEIU’s delegates lead by example. 1199SEIU’s members are surely our lifeblood, but this issue of Our Life And Times takes a closer look at our bone and sinew — our delegates. Our delegates do a lot more than enforce our union rights on the job and file grievances. They’re advocates, organizers, communicators, detectives, educators — and more. We call on them to be the voice of reason and look to them when we need a protective, guiding hand. And it’s no secret that if we want to keep our Union and its chapters strong we need more of them. Many of our delegates, like Cape Cod Hospital’s Bernard Bowens, have dedicated decades of their lives to the work and have seen themselves grow and change over the years, today possessing judgment and wisdom that only experience brings. “I’ve calmed down,” says Bowens, a chef at Cape Cod and a delegate for 25 years. “I’ve learned how to negotiate across a table. Now I know that no one is all angels and no one is all devils.” Others are young and new to the job, but no less vital as standard bearers for 1199SEIU. As work/life issues shift for a changing workforce, they bring inventive methods of problem solving and fresh approaches to communication. Emily Rodriguez, a 32-year-old delegate from Springfield, MA, became an activist when she started working as a Personal Care Attendant caring for her late father. She has lobbied elected officials on behalf of consumers and helped win training benefits for PCAs.
February/March 2013 • Our Life And Times
“I realized that as an active Union member I could help those who are most vulnerable and in need while at the same time help workers, like myself, who care for them,” says Rodriguez. Our delegates are the people who often come in early and stay late so they can learn how to keep us safe in our workplaces and pass along that knowledge to the rest of us. They are equally adept at reading people and collective bargaining agreements. Off the clock, many of our delegates dedicate themselves to making a difference in society and in our communities. In 1997 CNA Micheline Louise-Charles helped organize her institution, Fountainhead Care Center in Miami, FL. Throughout the years she has also been active in Florida’s Haitian community, helping make the path easier for other immigrants. “Whenever there was a march for immigration at the statehouse in Tallahassee, I was there,” she says. “When I came here I didn’t know the language or the culture. The first company I worked for took advantage of me. Because of what happened to me I want to make sure other people’s eyes are opened.” In last November’s election, delegates helped organize the Union’s volunteers who were instrumental in electing President Obama to his historic second term. Several of them, including surgical technologist Renella Mitchell from Sound Shore Medical Center in New Rochelle, NY, were in the group that traveled to Washington, D.C. for Inauguration Day on Jan. 21.
Our delegates do a lot more than enforce our union rights on the job and file grievances. They’re advocates, organizers, communicators, detectives, educators — and more. “I know with all of the hard work our members put in we made a difference,” says Mitchell. “People saw that we were there and they became willing to do more.” Every delegate on these pages understands the willingness to do more. So too do their unsung brothers and sisters in our institutions. The challenge now is for us to follow the example by which our delegates lead; to step forward and take up the mantle of defending workers’ rights and in doing so strengthen our Union and the entire labor movement.
THE PRESIDENT’S COLUMN George Gresham
The Backbone of Our Union The key to strong chapters is strong delegates.
This issue of Our Life And Times appropriately focuses on “Our Delegates: The Backbone of Our Union.” Too often, people think of “the union” as a headquarters building, its staff and elected officers. In fact, our union is—in the first place—our members. And our members are led—in the first place—by our Delegates, whom you elect and who work alongside you every day. Delegates deserve our highest respect. They conduct grievances, defend and advocate for our members in our workplaces, help run chapter and department meetings, inform members of important events and mobilize for them, inform our officers and organizers of what is on the minds of our members, and volunteer for political campaigns, among other tasks. And they do all of this without compensation— in the meantime holding down their own jobs, caring for their families and participating in their communities. This is heroic work when you think about it and this issue of our magazine rightfully salutes our Delegates. This is our members’ People magazine, but one that respects real work and deeply held values, rather than crass commercialism and cheap gossip. As important as our Delegates have always been to the life of our Union, their importance is only going to increase in the months to come. Let me explain: In January, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the percentage of American workers who belong to unions is the lowest it has been in nearly a century. Nationally, union membership has been declining for many years, but the new figures reflect the layoffs of hundreds of thousands of teachers, firefighters, sanitation and other public workers; and the elimination of union rights in Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and other former union strongholds. What this means for the workers affected is less or no healthcare coverage and pension benefits, lower wages, and no protections on the job—if they still have jobs. Fortunately, we in 1199SEIU have not yet been affected by this trend. In fact, we continue to grow in many regions of our union. It helps when you belong to a union of hundreds of thousands of members, with a strong political action program to protect against funding cuts and a strong new organizing program to continue to grow. But we are hardly immune from attacks. And we don’t live in a vacuum or on an island. The loss of union strength nationally affects us and encourages many of our employers. Having a large membership does not make us “bullet-proof.” The United Mineworkers once had hundreds of thousands of members; now it has 30,000. The United Auto Workers once had 1.5 million members; now it has 400,000. The single most essential key to a strong union is having strong chapters in our institutions, and the key to strong chapters is strong Delegates and enough of them. In the coming months, you will hear much more about “chapter-building,” by which we really mean chapter-strengthening. This will begin next month when you elect your Delegates. But it will hardly end there. We are now beginning to correct some longstanding deficiencies. Our union has a new Director of Education and Leadership Development and we intend to give every Delegate and Organizer the training and tools necessary to best represent you to our employers. But union membership is not a spectator sport. It is audience participation: every 1199SEIU member has a part to play in attending department and chapter meetings, joining our Political Action Fund, responding to calls for action. Our Delegates understand this and answer the call. They warrant our deep admiration and appreciation. I know they certainly have mine.
those laws that you are penalized and/or prosecuted. I think we should view gun laws in a similar manner. STEVE RIACH Nathan Littauer Hospital Gloversville, NY
DELEGATE IS A ROLE MODEL n 1990 I became a CNA and was employed at an 1199 facility, St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan. I learned about the Training and Upgrading Fund and became a Patient Care Technician. Having a passion for what the Union stands for, I became a delegate and got very involved in Union activities such as rallies, lobbying, organizing and door knocking. I even had the opportunity to attend the 2004 SEIU Convention in Puerto Rico and appeared in a television ad sponsored by the 1199SEIUGreater NY Healthcare Education Project. An active delegate gains experience in many areas of the Union and we share information with our members to give them knowledge and power. When St. Vincent’s closed in 2010, I went to work at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn. Though I was only there for a short time, I wanted to ensure that other members could achieve their goals through things like the Training and Upgrading Fund. I gave them information that was vital to their success. On the day I retired the RN presented me with an award for my service, and my co-workers gave me an awesome farewell party. I believe those honors are not only for my work as a PCT but also for what I helped achieve as an 1199SEIU delegate. Solidarity to all!
ROSITA CHASE Retiree, Brooklyn, NY CALLS FOR RESPONSIBLE GUN OWNERSHIP am an 1199SEIU member at Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home in Gloversville, NY. I oppose the new gun law that dictates what kind of gun New Yorkers can or cannot have, as well as where one may purchase items to maintain arms that are not even on the list. I live in a rural area of the state, where hunting is a common sport. I personally hunt not only as sport, but also as a means to supplement food for the table. The rifle I hunt with (semiautomatic) has one feature that the military adopted from civilians—now it’s on the ban list, and I can’t use it. Furthermore, I want to point out that hunters make up only 20% of the Americans who own firearms. There are more than 75 million Americans who own firearms for various reasons—and that is their right under the Constitution of the United States. Cars kill quite a few people in America, yet no one is clamoring to make automobiles illegal. It is expected, however, that in order to drive a car you get training, you use your car properly and you are responsible. It is only if you ignore
Editor’s Note: 1199SEIU is a committed advocate for the prevention of gun violence and supports the NY SAFE Act, which includes common sense protections such as mental health background checks and limits on high capacity ammunition. GUN LAWS SAVE LIVES sometimes wonder how many people get really angry when they hear the words “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Or better yet when occasionally someone may go on about how it is their constitutional right to carry semiautomatic weapons. Did they even exist back then? What on God’s good Earth would you hunt for that required such a weapon? We can come up with all kinds of arguments to hide the real issue. Guns that are registered and bought legally are not the issue. No individual needs a semiautomatic weapon for personal use (unless they belong to a SWAT team). All weapons need to be registered and put in lock down safe places for storage. All weapons not purchased with this process should be considered illegal and punishable. The consequences of not being strict with this have already proven to be all too catastrophic. Ask yourself who really stands to win and who stands to lose? The answer is clear. Some folks are making a great deal of money off of gun sales. Others end up dead.
LYNN MUCHINSKY Harlem Hospital, New York City HEALTH & SAFETY TRAINING SHOULD BE REQUIRED he clinic setting we work in is physically and mentally demanding. It can also be hazardous. We recently took health and safety training through 1199. Jean Turner Kelly, Steve Schrag and others presented us with a lot of valuable material that helps us handle all aspects of our job performance. We studied and did exercises on topics like infection control, ergonomics/safe patient handling, workplace violence, hazardous materials and workers compensation and legal rights. We also learned about forming a health and safety committee. There have been numerous changes since we completed our class—from the way workers compensation is handled to the way hazardous materials are handled. We are grateful for the knowledge that we gained and intend to follow through in keeping up with these changes and putting all we learned to use. We believe that health and safety classes should be a requirement for all healthcare workers.
VIOLET HOWELL SHEREEN BELL SEMPLETHOMPSON Cerebral Palsy Association of New York, Brooklyn, NY
February/March 2013 • Our Life And Times
EXPERIENCE This issue of Our Life And Times is devoted to our delegates; among them are long-serving members who have dedicated decades to protecting the members they represent and keeping the Union strong at the institutions where they work. On the following pages is the first of a two-part photo feature dedicated to our long-time delegates, like unit secretary Ruby Graham-Joseph, who has for 40 years represented 1199ers at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, NY. The group is in no way meant to be a comprehensive picture of our Union. Instead, it’s a cross-section of experienced members who we asked to share some insights they’ve gained over their many years as trade unionists. In the coming months we’ll be posting additional photos from the feature on the web at www.1199SEIU.org
February/March 2013 • Our Life And Times
Activity transport aide Barbara Tice has been a delegate for 19 years at Crystal Lake Nursing and Rehab, Bayville, NJ. She has worked at the institution for 40 years.
Unit secretary Ruby Graham-Joseph has been a delegate for 40 years at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, NY
RN Debra Friedland has been a delegate for 18 of her 20 years at St. Johnâ€™s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway, NY.
February/March 2013 â€˘ Our Life And Times
CNA Carol Willis has served as a delegate for 16 of her 19 years at Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center in New York City.
February/March 2013 â€˘ Our Life And Times
PHOTO: MAGGIE STEBER
CNA Quettie Isoff has been a delegate for 12 years at Palm Gardens Nursing Home in Miami, FL
Laboratory technologist Tom Cloutier has worked at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, NY since 1979. He became a delegate in 1980.
A group of 120 members of 1199SEIU were among the million people that joyfully gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to witness President Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 21. At left, attendees cheer the historic moment. Below are Marie Mattoli (with husband Jeff) from Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital; an unidentified woman watching the inauguration; Renella Mitchell from Sound Shore Medical Center in New Rochelle, NY; Hilda Haye from Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, MA and 1199SEIU retiree Vincent King.
“WE ARE ALL PEOPLE STANDING TOGETHER AND WE WILL GO
FORWARD” 1199SEIU Members Attend President Obama’s Inauguration.
group of 120 members of 1199SEIU traveled from Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21 to witness the historic inauguration and swearing in of President Barack Obama for his second term as President of the United States. Every region of the Union was represented in the contingent. The 1199ers were invited as thanks for their exceptional hard work during this year’s Presidential campaign. “It’s pretty overwhelming for me to be here,” said Marie Mattoli, a CNA at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital and who traveled from Plattsburgh, NY with her husband Jeff. “Even though I worked hard to be here, seeing the President is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so I feel pretty honored.” Mattoli was an 1199SEIU Member Political Organizer in Upstate New York’s North Country and also signed up over 100 members for the Union’s Political Action Fund. She’s determined to break her own record by signing 200 people this year, she says. Dotting their section on the National Mall with familiar purple, 1199ers were among the estimated one million people who gathered there to witness, in the words of New York Senator Charles Schumer, “the simplicity and innate majesty” of the inauguration of the nation’s 44th president. The grey January sky stretched over the Capitol Building like canvas as the crowd chatted happily and kept moving to shake off the winter chill. Adults hoisted little ones onto their shoulders for a better view while seniors rested on benches. The convivial atmosphere warmed the spirit, if not the body. Hilda Haye was among the six Massachusetts Region members who rode the bus down to Washington, D.C. from 1199SEIU’s
Manhattan headquarters. “I was excited for our president to get another chance in the White House to finish a lot of unfinished business like health care and immigration,” says Haye, a diagnostic technician at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis. “Over the years immigration has taken a back burner with every president. We have so many undocumented workers here and they have no way out of hiding. They’re suffering and scared to talk. They have no voice.”
aye worked as a Member Political Organizer, campaigning for Sen. Elizabeth Warren and traveling to New Hampshire to door knock and get out the vote for President Obama. “I couldn’t find the words for my happiness,” she says of President Obama’s and Senator Warren’s victories. Angelica Kogan, a home attendant with the Far Rockaway Agency in Queens, NY, was moved by President Obama’s inaugural address, which spoke of renewal, equality and the limitless possibilities of the American vision. “It really had an effect on me. He said what I feel: We are all Americans. We help others. We are problem solvers. That’s how I feel about myself. I love helping other people and I am a problem solver, that’s why I am an American,” said Kogan, who is originally from Uzbekistan in Central Asia. “Today really made me proud,” said Renella Mitchell, a surgical technologist at Sound Shore Medical Center in New Rochelle, NY “It showed that we are all people standing together and we will go forward. This shows that spiritually we are all connected and there is a superior being that brings us all together. We really are a blessed people.”
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Leadership Off the Clock Members help build stronger chapters through their community activism.
For some 1199ers like Micheline Louis-Charles, who came to the U.S. from Haiti in 1974, activism is a way of life. “When I came here I didn’t know the language or the culture. The first company I worked for took advantage of me. Because of what happened to me I want to make sure other people’s eyes are opened,” she says. Louis-Charles has been a CNA at Fountainhead Care Center in Miami, FL for 26 years. She helped organize the facility in 1997. “We were a group, but I was a leader. I went to the Union meetings. I was on the front of the picket lines,” she says. “I didn’t care if I was going to lose my job as long as it was for something right.” Aside from being one of 1199SEIU’s most active Florida region delegates, regularly participating in Union organizing drives, marches, lobby days, demonstrations and other events, Louis-Charles has over the years dedicated much of her time to helping other immigrant workers and the immigration reform movement. “Whenever there was a march at the statehouse in Tallahassee for immigration, I was there,” she says. Before she was a member of 1199SEIU, Louis-Charles was leader in Unite For Dignity, a cooperative effort of SEIU and UNITE to organize Florida nursing home workers that predated the region’s merger into 1199SEIU. In addition to organizing Florida healthcare workers, Unite For Dignity was at the vanguard of making change for immigrant workers and their families. The program confronted the need for change around the major issues that affect immigrants, including healthcare, education, and immigration policy and workers’ rights. “We did trainings on everything,” she says. “Domestic violence, children’s education. Before elections I went out to help new voters.” Louis-Charles’ passion is fueled by remembering how she was treated when she first arrived in the U.S., she says. “Managers would say terrible things to me. They’d call me a boat person and say that things can’t change. Because I didn’t speak a lot of English they thought I couldn’t do anything,” she says. “I had five children. I woke up every day and went to two jobs. I couldn’t afford health insurance.
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“I found out it wasn’t only my experience,” she continues. “If I was afraid I wouldn’t have been able to find out what was going on.” Louis-Charles says things have gotten better for Haitians in Florida. She’s proud to be a model for other Union members through her work with Unite For Dignity and as a strong delegate leader. “I feel great. I helped five children through college. When I came here I worked in factories and hotels,” she says. “I went back to school. My oldest is a doctor now and my youngest just passed the bar. It doesn’t matter what anyone called me.” Helen Moss, a medical records clerk at Southside Hospital in Bayshore, NY, wanted to find out what was going on in the schools of her town of Brentwood on Long Island, NY, so she ran for the town’s school board and was the first Latina elected to the board. “I decided to run because I felt that the bar could be raised,” she says. “It’s not as easy as it sounds. You’re dealing with an institution that’s been a certain way for years, and you want to make change, and people say ‘we’ve always done things this way.’” Moss is the mother of two grown children — one Harvard graduate and one New York University graduate — and had the value of education instilled in her at an early age. “I grew up in Belize, and my mom and dad raised nine children. My mom made sure that every one of us completed the highest level of education offered,” she says. “After I came here I went to night school to further my education. When I moved to Long Island, I saw such a disparity. I wanted to make sure my own kids got the best education possible.” She didn’t consider herself an activist; it just made more sense to her to work for better public education and not pay for private or parochial school. “If you monitor your kids’ education, it will be just as great as any school you have to spend extra money on,” she says. She and her husband also made sure the kids spent time on homework and studying.
“My son is my motivator. He told me that I should help other kids,” she says. Since 2006 Moss has been involved with an NAACP mentoring program for high school students called the Academic Cultural Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO). She’s also served on numerous councils and advisory boards to help parents and improve her area’s schools. “Brentwood is very diverse and we’re growing. Our kids are great and we do so many things. I want to change the perception of our town,” she says. Moss says her community work brings her closer to her co-workers and makes for a stronger community within Southside, too. “I’m not a delegate, but I go to meetings. I’ve been to demonstrations like 10-2-10,” she says. “It helps me build personal relationships. Everybody knows you and it’s nice to be acknowledged.”
LOUIS-CHARLES’ PASSION IS FUELED BY REMEMBERING HOW SHE WAS TREATED WHEN SHE FIRST ARRIVED IN THE U.S.
Micheline Louis-Charles, a CNA at Fountainhead Care Center in Miami, FL, has been a tireless leader in her shop as well as in her community.
“I BELIEVE THE CLASSES HAVE HELPED SAVE MY LIFE.” Shelton Thompson, a habilitation counselor at the Cerebral Palsy Association of New York, took health and safety classes with her coworkers at 1199SEIU’s Manhattan headquarters.
Safety is No Accident Classes help members maintain healthful and safe workplaces.
very day in our nation, 12 workers are killed on the job. And each year, three million are injured or sickened in their workplaces. The healthcare industry is not immune from these dangers. The 1199SEIU Education Department is going a long way towards addressing the issue. Twice a year its Health and Safety Program holds a series of classes for members in the New York Metropolitan Region. “Going to the classes is one of the best things that have ever happened to me,” says Joseph Illery, an environmental services worker at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. “I would go as far as to say that going to classes helped save my life. Before going to the class, I was clueless about so many of the dangers of everyday life, both on the job and at home.” Illery is among the scores of members who have taken the nineweek course. It is offered twice a year and meets on consecutive Monday evenings at the Union’s Manhattan headquarters. The curriculum includes topics as varied
as infection control, ergonomics, going green, workplace violence, hazardous materials, workers’ compensation and setting up safety committees. Illery notes that many people associate dangerous work with occupations such as mining, construction and law enforcement, but workplace dangers exist in most professions. In fact, statistics confirm that nursing home work is among the most dangerous in the nation. Back injuries, in particular, are rampant in the profession.
nd although injuries and death have always existed in workplaces, unions and workers’ advocates weren’t able to seriously curb workplace carnage until 1970 when the Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed. The 1199SEIU Health and Safety program works closely with the New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), a membership organization whose mission is to extend and defend every person’s human right to a safe and healthful work environment. The right to a safe and healthful workplace is also one of
the main priorities of 1199SEIU members, as polls and surveys frequently indicate. And those who have completed Health and Safety classes are eager to testify about the difference it has made in their lives. “As healthcare workers, I and my co-workers were especially interested in making sure we had a safe workplace,” says Shelton Thompson, a habilitation counselor for the Cerebral Palsy Association of New York State. Last year she enrolled in the class with coworkers Julia Clarke, Denise Taylor and Violet Howell. “We took the classes,” Thompson says, “because the clinic is demanding physically and mentally, and sometimes it can be hazardous. “One of the first things we learned in class is our right to information concerning the safety of our workplace.”
hompson says that after she and the others attended the first session, they could hardly wait for their remaining sessions. She and the others also won changes at the workplace. They include improved
handling of compensation issues, greater protection from hazardous materials and the replacement of masks with aspirators. Illery can also point to changes at his workplace. “I’ve changed the way I lift and move things on the job,” Illery says. “I study the material data sheet to eliminate or lessen the use of dangerous chemicals.” Illery stresses that what he’s learned in the classes is not just applicable to the workplace. “I used what I learn at home, out in the streets and actually wherever I go,” he says. “I teach my children about hazardous materials and safety at home and outside. “I believe that going to the Safety and Health class was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I would recommend it to every member. If we all have this knowledge, we could strike a mighty blow for a safer workplace and cleaner environment.” For information about the Safety and Health Program and its classes, email: Jean.Turner-Kelly@1199.org or call 212-603-1170.
February/March 2013 • Our Life And Times
MINIMUM WAGE IS A LABOR ISSUE
Maryland-DC members help lead state campaign.
For the past few years, Maryland-DC members have made headlines with their Heart of Baltimore campaign for quality care, quality jobs, a stronger Baltimore economy and fair union elections. This year, members of the division have added a statewide campaign to their fight for economic justice. 1199ers have joined labor, faith and civil rights organizations to form Raise Maryland, a coalition that seeks to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10 per hour by 2015. “I believe wages should be raised for so many Baltimore workers,” says Monica Jones, an 1199SEIU delegate and a CNA at Baltimore’s Springwell Assisted Living. “I have co-workers who aren’t in the union who are paid the minimum wage. You can’t support your family with that.” Jones is among the 1199SEIU Md-DC members who have marched and lobbied to raise Maryland’s minimum wage. The state’s current minimum is $7.25 an hour, roughly $15,000 per year for a full-time worker. For
1199ers were at a Feb. 7 rally challenging Maryland Chamber of Commerce President Kathleen Snyder to walk a day in a minimum wage worker’s shoes.
February/March 2013 • Our Life And Times
tipped workers, such as waitresses and car-wash attendants, the minimum is 50 percent less – $3.63 per hour. Raise Maryland is fighting for a bill that would raise the minimum to $8.25 sixty days after the bill’s enactment. The minimum would go up to $9 in July 2014 and $10 in July 2015. Starting in 2016, the minimum would be indexed to rise with the cost of living. The bill also would raise the minimum for tipped workers from 50 percent to 70 percent of the state minimum. Supporters of the raise say they have public opinion on their side, including President Barack Obama. “Let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty,” the president said during his State of the Union address in January. The president proposed raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour. He also called for future raises based on increases in the cost of living. “This single step would raise
the incomes of millions of working families,” President Obama stressed. Based on estimates by the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive Washington-based think tank, the minimum-wage increase in Maryland would raise the pay for some 536,000 workers across the state. It also would create an estimated 4,280 jobs and add $492 million to the state’s economy. The Raise Maryland campaign kicked off on Jan. 22, a subfreezing day when 1199ers joined a coalition of faith, community and labor activists at an Annapolis rally. On Feb. 7, 1199ers and other coalition members rallied outside the offices of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce to challenge Chamber President Kathleen T. Snyder to walk a day in the shoes of minimum wage workers. “I’m out here for my kids and for our future,” declared Ditanya Rosebud, a cook at Pickersgill Retirement Community in Towson, MD., at the rally.
“Working people shouldn’t have to choose between bus fare and paying a bill. These people should walk a day in our shoes.” Raising the minimum also has emerged as an important front in the fight for women’s equality. In 2012, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, about 4.2 million workers earned the minimum wage or less. Some 2.8 million of those, 64 percent, are women. Monica Jones is a single mother with three children and a grandchild. “It’s ridiculous what we have to do with the little that we earn,” she says. “We definitely need a higher minimum and higher wages for us all.”
“You can’t support your family with the minimum wage.”
WORK WE DO
THE WORK WE DO:
Delaire Gardens Assisted Living
At Delaire Gardens and Assisted Living in Linden, NJ, 1199ers help patients with many different kinds of issues: some patients stay only for short visits, like joint replacement rehabilitation cases, while others, like residents with Alzheimer’s, are at Delaire for the long term. 1199SEIU represents service and maintenance workers at the institution, like CNA Devin Pittman, who acknowledges a connection to her residents that many people don’t understand. “I love my patients,” says Pittman, “I just love helping them. It’s hard not getting attached and then when they leave us it’s difficult.” 2 1. Restorative CNA Danny Mota often works as a team with fellow Restorative CNA Catherine Bird (shown in photo 8). Mota has been at Delaire for four years.
2. Ruby N. Roman has been a CNA at Delaire for more than 26 years. She became a Restorative CNA a few years ago when there was an opening in the department. She is currently taking delegate training in preparation for becoming a delegate in the future. “I like to communicate with the employees and with the patients,” says Roman. “I like to see improvement and I like to encourage people.”
3. CNA Devin Pittman is the single mom of three kids (ages 14, 10 and 2), but says juggling schedules, homework, bath time and a hectic life doesn’t dampen her love for her work. “I’ve always been a helper. If I don’t have anything I’ll give you my heart, that’s just the way my mother raised me,” she says.
“WHEN I TAKE CARE OF MY PATIENTS I THINK ABOUT MYSELF. IT COULD BE ME. I’M NOT YOUNG. I COULD BE IN THIS SITUATION,”
8 4. “When I take care of my patients I think about myself. It could be me. I’m not young. I could be in this situation,” says CNA Rolna LaFleur, snapping her fingers. “It all goes by so fast. Life is nothing. No time at all. Anything can happen to you.”
5. “I don’t think it’s so much a challenge for me as it is a privilege,” says Restorative CNA Carolyn Griggs-Cromartie, a delegate at Delaire for 28 years. “It could be my parents or grandparents. It’s just good to know that you’re here to help someone and take care of the residents.”
February/March 2013 • Our Life And Times
6. “I take care of the patients, transfer them, feed them, wash them — provide total care,” says CNA Gertha Dorley, who has worked at the institution for 20 years.
7. CNA Sandra Lopez has been at Delaire for eight years. “I like helping people,” she says. “But it’s hard when the floors are full.”
8. Restorative CNA Catherine Bird, who often teams with CNA Danny Mota, (see photo 1) has been at Delaire for 27 years. “We like the residents, and this work is more one-on-one. We get to deal with different patients every day. When they reach their potential we send them out, and they send us new ones to work with,” says Bird.
“We need to combine the old with the new.” Emily Rodriguez, a PCA from Springfield, MA, is a member of 1199SEIU’s PurpleGold program.
a 32-year-old 1199SEIU PurpleGold member and delegate from Springfield, MA. It was her love for her father and her desire to help him and others that led Rodriguez to 1199SEIU and social activism. “In 2011, I became a PCA for my dad, Rodriguez says. “He succumbed to cancer after seven months, but caring for him convinced me that I wanted to do the same for others.”
ROSE LINCOLN PHOTO
ECONOMIC RECOVERY IS SLOW FOR YOUNG WORKERS PurpleGold Program is helping to address the crisis.
The nation continues to dig itself out from the 2008 economic crisis. Progress has been slow and recovery for those on the bottom rung of the economic ladder has been especially tough. For example, unemployment during December 2012 and January 2013 rose at a faster rate for workers between the ages of 18 and 29 than it did for workers as a whole. Among African American youth, the jobless rate stands officially at 28 percent, and tops 50 percent in several inner-city communities. Even college graduates who are able to find jobs aren’t immune. A 2009 Yale University study showed students who graduate into a recession can expect to earn a 10 percent lower wage after a decade of work than they otherwise would have earned in a strong economy. Unions are on the frontlines of the fight for emergency measures to address this crisis. 1199SEIU, for example, has won funding for jobs and training. But it also has developed a special approach to its young members. The Union’s PurpleGold Program engages, educates and empowers members under the age of 35. Some 70.000 members fall into that category. “I love my job as a PCA (Personal Care Attendant), but I also want to have a greater voice about conditions,” says Emily Rodriguez,
Rodriguez had been a retail worker earlier in her work life, but had never been a union member. Being a member of 1199SEIU opened her eyes, she says. “I realized that as an active Union member I could help those who are most vulnerable and in need while at the same time help workers, like myself, who care for them.” Rodriguez became a delegate and soon found herself in meetings exchanging notes with co-workers and at the statehouse lobbying elected officials on behalf of consumers and workers. Her political work was instrumental in winning a Training Fund in a recent PCA contract. The Fund offers classes to PCAs in first aid, basic computer skills and universal healthcare precautions. “I feel that being an activist also makes me a better PCA,” Rodriguez emphasizes. “I feel that I’ve become more empathetic and connected.” Rodriguez also has become an enthusiastic spokesperson for the PurpleGold program. “Companies in our country have become so anti-union,” she says. “We have to begin to change that. We have to let young people know the importance of unions.” Rodriguez says she is heartened by recent developments in the Massachusetts region. We are learning to use social media in our organizing work,” she says enthusiastically. “I think that’s important because it means we are combining the old methods with the new. And I think we have to use both. “I think we have to meet people where they are.” Rodriguez and other PurpleGold members are building their program to help prepare young members to lead the broader labor movement to where it needs to go.
February/March 2013 • Our Life And Times
AROUND THE UNION
JJ Johnson, Editor of Our Life And Times, Retires
J Johnson, a widely respected labor journalist and lifelong leader for progressive causes, retired on Dec. 31, 2012, from the position of editor of 1199SEIU’s Our Life And Times. Johnson supervised the widely celebrated publication for 13 years. He joined 1199SEIU through its merger with SEIU Local 144, where he was the communications director. Before coming to Local 144 Johnson directed communications for New York City’s AFSCME District Council 1707, which represents thousands of day care, social service education and home health workers. 1199SEIU Pres. George Gresham couldn’t attend Johnson’s January retirement celebration, so he sent a recorded message. “You deserve all the happiness
that’s ahead of you in the future,” said Gresham, who was joined on the video by former 1199SEIU VPs Gerald Hudson and Patrick Gaspard. “You understand the hopes and aspirations of working people. I can tell you that you will never be replaced because it’s not possible to replace you.” For his entire adult life Johnson has been a tireless advocate for peace, justice and the working class. When he was barely out of his teens, he went to jail rather than fight in the Vietnam War, which he believed to be immoral and unjust. Johnson, along with David Samas and Dennis Mora, were the first active duty GIs to refuse to go to Vietnam. They spent 28 months in Leavenworth Prison for this act of conscience and became known as
The Fort Hood Three. Johnson’s late father, James Alexander Johnson, was a militant rank-and-file leader in the Distributive Workers (now the RWDSU) District 65. He supported his son’s antiwar position and garnered much of the Fort Hood Three’s support in labor circles. After JJ Johnson’s release from prison, he dedicated his life to the labor movement, civil rights, social justice, environmentalism and a host of progressive causes in the U.S. and abroad. Through labor journalism Johnson is committed to telling the stories of working people with a dignity and honesty rarely seen in today’s commercial media. “From his chosen profession of labor journalism to his anti-war activism, JJ has always exemplified
Our Life And Times Editor JJ Johnson what a commitment to the movement is all about,” says 1199SEIU Executive VP Estela Vazquez.
First-Ever Training Courses for Bay State PCAs
assachusetts Region personal care attendants (PCAs) were for the first time this October able to take classes through the 1199SEIU Training and Upgrading Fund (TUF). The free TUF classes are a new contract benefit for the PCAs and included training in CPR, the use of an Automated External Defibrillator, universal precautions and a six-week computer basics class. They were offered at 11 locations that included Boston, Springfield, Lawrence and New Bedford and enrolled 675 students. “I took the CPR classes and it was really fun,” says Gotdry Mills, a PCA from Fall River who is also in the Union’s Leaders in Training
program. “I also took the defibrillator course and the universal precautions course, which was really helpful because it showed me what I have to deal with and what I don’t have to deal with [on the job].” 1199SEIU represents 32,000 PCAs in Massachusetts. The classes are a major step forward for the PCA profession, which requires no formal training in Massachusetts. “People are excited,” says Ana Matos, a PCA in Lawrence. “They want to keep learning. We got a certificate that goes in our record at the end of the day and they’re looking forward to different kinds of classes in the future.” A Labor-Management Committee of the PCA Workforce Council,
the state agency that employs PCAs, gives workers some input into what types of courses they think would be most beneficial for their profession. Matos, whose consumers are her mother-in-law and father-in-law, says the classes bolster workers’ abilities and self-confidence, which is good for consumers. “Sometimes people think that if they’re working with family members they don’t have to wear gloves; that things like that don’t matter, but they do. You have to do all the same things no matter who you are working with. It’s for their protection as well,” she says. At press time a second, expanded group of the classes was in progress. It includes English for
Gotdry Mills of Fall River, MA., is a PCA for her legally blind daughter, Te’kahn. Mills was among the PCAs who took first-ever training courses through the 1199 Training Fund this fall.
Speakers of Other Languages. For more information call 877-409-8283 ext. 8 or email infoMA@1199funds.org.
1199SEIU Citizenship Program Celebration
n Jan. 25 the 1199SEIU National Benefit Fund (NBF) and Training and Employment Funds honored the 558 members of 1199SEIU who in 2012 became U.S. citizens with help from the 1199SEIU Citizenship Program. More than 200 new citizens and their families attended the 11th annual celebration, which was held at NBF headquarters in Manhattan. The evening’s program included a dance performance by members of the 1199SEIU Latinos
February/March 2013 • Our Life And Times
Unidos Committee and congratulatory remarks from Brooklyn Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. Cecilia Adu, a home health aide with the New York Foundation for Senior Citizens, was among the program participants who shared their experiences on the path to citizenship. “I wanted to become a citizen because I wanted my voice to be heard and to be able to vote. I also wanted the freedom to travel easily, to just grab my passport and go,” says Adu, who originally from
Ghana. “These are the rights I have as a citizen of the United States.” Adu was sworn in as a U.S. citizen on March 30, 2012. Since its inception in 2001, 1199SEIU’s Citizenship Program has helped more than 8,600 members become U.S. citizens. The program assists eligible members with counseling, assistance with the application process, interview skills coaching and more. For more information call the Citizenship Program at (646) 473-8915 or log onto www.1199nbf.org.
“Not being a citizen here is like knocking on a door that doesn’t open for you,” said Santa Then, a patient care associate at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC, at Jan. 25 1199SEIU Citizenship Program celebration. Originally from the Dominican Republic, she was sworn in as a U.S. citizen on April 6, 2012.
THE BACK PAGE
Healing Hands This issue’s Work We Do features Delaire Assisted Living in Linden, NJ, where 1199SEIU members dedicate themselves to the care of patients and residents with a variety of issues — from short-stay rehab to long-term residents with Alzheimer’s Disease. See pages 12 and 13.