1199ers made an important visit to the City of Brotherly Love this Saturday to stand with their union brothers and sisters of 1199C as they fight against huge cuts to wages and benefits to thousands of Philadephia healthcare workers.
Hundreds of members of 1199SEIU joined 1199C members outside of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital for a “high noon” rally, where 1199SEIU President George Gresham repeated his promise to stand with workers in Philadelphia and hold back the tide of anti-worker attacks sweeping the nation.
The crowd then marched through downtown Philadelphia past City Hall to the Convention Center chanting, “What’s this about? Patient Care,” and, “We are the 99%.” The day wrapped up at the Convention Center where union members and their families enjoyed food, music and entertainment along with a shared sense of purpose and solidarity.Contracts are set to expire on July 1 between 1199C members and management at 70 Philadelphia-area nursing homes and hospitals that cover some 10,000 workers.
Management has put on the table wage cuts of between $5-$7 per hour for certain employees. They’ve also proposed cuts to benefits, but perhaps the most troubling is the proposal by employers to do away entirely with the workers’ pensions.
Bernice Blacknell, an 1199SEIU Certified Nursing Assistant from Washington, DC, came to Philadelphia on Saturday along with her son Toppie, a computer science student. Blacknell and her coworkers at J.B. Johnson Nursing Center in the District, who are struggling to win a fair first contract. Still they made the trip because, according to Blacknell, “We’re all brothers and sisters. Their fight is our fight.”
Similarly, Gloria Jack, a PCA in Recovery at New York Presbyterian Hospital, brought her grandchildren down for the rally to stand with Philadelphia caregivers. “It’s not fair,” she explained, “We have a strong union in New York, but [all union workers] have to support one another. To remain strong, we have to join forces and unite.
”1199C members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if an agreement isn't reached by the July 1 deadline.