Caregivers & Service Workers To Picket New York's Sixth Largest Employer, URMC On Monday 11/13 In Demand For Living Wages & Quality BenefitsNovember 10, 2023
Press Release: Friday, November 10, 2023
Contact: April Ezzell, (716) 449-1620
Visual & Interview Opportunity: Union Healthcare Workers & Service Workers, Elected Officials, Labor Unions, Graduate Workers, and Community Supporters
Contract covering 1,800+ union workers expired last month escalating labor tensions at sixth largest employer in the state.
Rochester, NY – Union caregivers and service workers at University of Rochester Medical Center’s (URMC) Strong Memorial Hospital and River Campus will hold an informational picket in front of the emergency room on Monday as tensions escalate between management and its workers. Caregivers and service workers are fighting for a fair contract from the sixth largest employer in the state that includes fair living wage increases and a quality comprehensive benefits package to help recruit and retain more workers to help with staffing issues.
Who: Union Caregivers & Service Workers at URMC, Elected Officials, Labor Unions, URMC Graduate Workers, Community Groups, and Supporters
What: Informational Picket
When: Monday, November 13, 2023 from 11:00AM – 3:00PM
12:30PM Press Conference & Interview Opportunity
2:30PM Visual: March from ER to UR President’s Office
Where: URMC’s Strong Memorial Hospital Emergency Room
601 Elmwood Avenue, Rochester, NY 14642
Why?: Following multiple contract extensions, the collective bargaining agreement covering more than 1,800 service workers at University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) expired October 31. To date, two unions have been negotiating on behalf of 1,800 caregivers and service workers since late August. Both sides held 24 day-long bargaining sessions only agreeing to non-economics. 1199SEIU and SEIU Local 200United and URMC remain at odds over a living wage for workers and a quality comprehensive benefits package to help recruit and retain more workers to care for patients and to provide services for students and to alleviate staffing concerns across the system.
Union members will participate in the informational picket on their own time, which means picketers will join the line before or after work or during their lunch break. Workers can not be disciplined by URMC for participating in a protected job action.
“Investing in workers and providing a living wage is critical to ensuring that we have enough staff to provide a high level of patient care and student services to our community,” said Tracey Harrison, 1199SEIU Vice-President for Rochester Corning. “Staffing is a concern across the hospital and campus. URMC must invest more in retaining and recruiting workers,” said Harrison.
“I know we aren’t a minimum wage hospital, but it feels like the direction we are going in,” said Tina Hawkins, Sterile Processing Technician at URMC’s Strong Memorial Hospital.
“Many of us work extra shifts just to make ends meet, said Dana Allison, Patient Care Technician at URMC’s Strong Memorial Hospital. “We still don’t feel like we are treated equally and that’s why will picket. We don’t feel appreciated and now is our time to raise our voices to demand the respect we deserve,” said Allison.
Union officials are encouraging the URMC community to walk alongside workers at the picket. “We aren’t just fighting for union members, we are fighting for those who may want to join a union in the future,” said Tracey Harrison, 1199SEIU Vice-President. “It’s about everyone who works at URMC because everyone deserves a voice in the workplace, a living wage and quality benefits that will help to improve staffing across the hospital system and campus,” said Harrison.
The labor dispute at URMC, Rochester’s largest employer is not the first in the area. The public labor dispute with URMC comes as Nurses at Rochester General recently ratified a 42-month agreement, averting a second strike over wages and staffing.
More recently, URMC graduate workers joined a growing trend across the country to begin organizing to form their union. “As a graduate worker at University of Rochester, I have faced serious financial uncertainty,” said Justin Grossman, Graduate Student Association President. “I’ve struggled to pay my bills and at one point didn’t even know if I was going to be able to keep my apartment. That’s why we are joining with campus workers from SEIU to demand increased wages and union rights for all,” said Grossman.
Workers represented by SEIU Local 200United at the University of Rochester include Building Services, Dining Services, Porters, Cooks, Stack Attendants – Library, Catering Service Assistants, Bus Drivers, Truck Drivers, and Stockkeepers.
Caregivers and service workers represented by 1199SEIU at Strong Memorial Hospital include Environmental Service Workers, Nursing Assistants, Cooks, Food Service Workers, Dietary Workers, Dental Assistants, Drivers, Patient Care Technicians, Materials Processing Specialists, Patient Unity Secretaries, Porters, Stockkeepers, Transport Assistants, Transportation Center Workers, Truck Drivers, and Unit Support Assistants.
Patient caregivers and service workers employed at Strong Memorial Hospital are represented by 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East, and service workers at the University of Rochester are represented by SEIU Local 200United. Both unions have been working together to negotiate one agreement that includes fair wage increases that respect the high level of service and support provided throughout the hospital and campus. Better wages and a quality comprehensive benefit package will also help to retain and recruit more workers and alleviate staffing concerns across URMC.
A family of three (with one child) where both adults are working must earn $19.16 per hour or more to earn a living wage in Monroe County. At URMC, the state’s sixth largest employer and the largest employer in Rochester, hundreds of caregivers and service workers are earning considerably less while top leaders are earning millions.
University of Rochester must do better by its workers to provide a living wage that helps to recruit and retain workers into sustainable long term healthcare jobs amid shortages across the state. URMC leaders must factor in the cost of healthcare, transportation, childcare and other needs workers must have in place to maintain their employment and care for their families. Care team workers who ensure the health & safety of patients and students in our community earning less than a living wage include nursing assistants, environmental service workers, cashiers, caterers, food service workers, and nutrition assistants.
URMC has spent millions purchasing buildings & increasing salaries for its top leaders as caregivers and service workers fight for a living wage. Since 2020, University of Rochester and its affiliates have invested more than $74 million dollars in real estate purchases including College Town. In 2021, during the COVID pandemic, URMC’s top leaders earned sizeable salaries ranging from $543,000 to $3.3 million dollars per year (including deferred compensation). It’s time that URMC invest in workers who provide the care and services that keep our hospital and campus community healthy.
With top leaders earning so much, even the lowest paid worker at URMC deserves to earn a living wage that allows them to provide for themselves and their families. “As a 34-year employee, I want to feel respected for the hard work we do” said Wendell Broadhurst, Environmental Services Work Leader at URMC’s River Campus. “It’s time that all workers get the dignity and respect they deserve on the job and we won’t settle for less,” said Broadhurst.
Last month, members from both labor unions participated in Meliora Weekend events to let the public know about their contract dispute. Hundreds of URMC alumnae and supporters signed an online public petition demanding that URMC agree to a fair contract settlement for its workers.
1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in America. We represent over 400,000 nurses and caregivers throughout Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Florida. Our mission is to achieve quality care and good jobs for all.
SEIU Local 200United, a union of thousands of members who are working people striving for fair and just workplaces and communities. We represent two million members in New York, Vermont, and Pennsylvania in the public and private sector.
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