Another Win for Unity & Power

Pawling_fa12.jpgOne hundred 1199SEIU members at The Grand at Pawling this week voted overwhelmingly to ratify their first collective bargaining agreement. The nursing home, in the southeast Hudson Valley near the Connecticut border, is about 70 miles from New York City.

This tremendous victory is the culmination of a long struggle that began with the workers’ successful organizing effort and turned into a protracted three-year fight for a fair collective bargaining agreement.

Sue Stoveland, a recreation aide and member of the 1199 Negotiating Committee said, “We made it to another finish line and that’s fantastic. We have a foundation for achieving the things we need to do to improve our residents’ lives and our lives. Now, we’ll continue to stay together, speak out, and make sure our contract is enforced without violations.”

Over the last year, it became clear that 1199 members employed by The Grand Health System across New York had the same concerns about short-staffing, high rates of staff turnover and over-utilization of temporary agency workers—and its impact on quality resident care. The employer’s business practices at Pawling were not isolated.

As a result, the win at The Grand at Pawling stands out as an example of effective collective action, not only among workers in one institution, but with broad support from 1199 members employed by the same nursing home network at other locations.

Earlier in the fall, 1199 members at The Grand at Pawling, along with The Grand facilities at Guilderland and River Valley, held simultaneous pickets, demanding better staffing and quality care for their residents. Those picket lines were further supported by solidarity actions taken by 1199 members employed by The Grand at Queens and upstate at The Grand at Chittenango and Rome, who wore stickers, signed solidarity petitions, and walked into management offices.

One month later, with statewide unity and power, the Pawling workers, who had been receiving below-market wages and offered unaffordable health insurance for years, settled a contract that provides significant wage increases in the first year (for some as high as 11%), and takes into consideration experience. Another raise is set for 2018. The workers will at last have affordable health benefits (some will save hundreds of dollars), the 1199SEIU Greater New York Education Fund and increases in shift differentials, and vacation, sick and holiday time.

Tavonna Cherry, LPN. said, “This was a long struggle. But now, I can afford health insurance and I can take some vacation time that is paid. The hope is that with better wages and benefits, workers will stay at Pawling, we will be better staffed and the residents will have better continuity of care. This contract is good for everyone.”

Throughout 2018, the collective bargaining agreements at the other Grand Health System nursing homes will expire, and will be re-negotiated. The newest agreement at The Grand at Pawling expires on October 31, 2019.