The constant rain didn’t stop 1199SEIU healthcare workers from holding a Community Outreach Walk in Gloversville, New York, the southern Adirondack town where their workplace, Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home, is located.
On September 29, the 1199SEIU members, with their families and other supporters gathered at Kingsboro Park, around the corner from the hospital. Angelo Santabarbara, candidate for New York State Assembly in the 111th District, and Madelyn Thorne, candidate for New York State Senate in the 49th District,addressed the workers and then joined the group. From the park, they walked the neighborhood together, knocking on doors to start up conversations, and carrying petitions, including 2 large poster-sized versions (36”x 24”).
“This was just the first of several events we are planning to raise awareness in the community,” said Rick Salie, a maintenance mechanic and member of the union negotiating committee. “No one would argue that Gloversville-Johnstown area families deserve a decent quality of life---and we are members of that community. So, we healthcare workers deserve the same. We do our part to ensure quality care for the community and we think management should do its part in keeping up wage and benefit standards for healthcare workers.”
For the last several months, more than 375 direct caregivers, technical employees and service workers have been trying to negotiate a new contract, without success. The employer wants to increase workers’ out-of pocket costs for health benefits, refuses to contribute to the workers’ pension at a rate that would keep the fund stable, and has proposed wage increases that don’t come close to keeping up with the daily cost of living.
Salie said, “Everyone we spoke to was receptive and signed the petition that urges management to settle a fair contract now. Everyone knows someone who works with us, has a family member who lives at the nursing home, or has been a hospital patient. In the end, the work we do affects the entire community.”
Contract negotiations are expected to continue on October 12.