In A Historic Moment, Union Nurses and Healthcare Workers at MidHudson Regional Hospital Ratified A Contract That Includes Annual Raises, Bonuses and No-Cost Health Benefits

January 15, 2019

Next week, nurses and healthcare workers at MidHudson Regional Hospital of Westchester Medical Center, members of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East (the largest healthcare workers union in the country), will be celebrating bigger paychecks that will include a lump sum bonus. This additional money is just one of several improvements in their new collective bargaining agreement, that includes no-cost health benefits, as well as annual raises.

The bonuses will be received 21 days after the January 2 ratification date. 

The previous agreement expired on December 31, 2017; the terms and conditions of that contract were extended until the new contract was ratified. The new contract provides unparalleled health coverage with little or no money out of pocket through the 1199 National Benefit Fund (NBF). The benefits include medical, prescription, dental and vision benefits.  The 1199SEIU Funds are among the strongest and largest labor-management funds in the nation, providing a range of comprehensive benefits to more than 450,000 working and retired members of 1199SEIU and their families. 

1199 members at Vassar Brothers Medical Center, Orange Regional Medical Center and at most nursing homes throughout the Hudson Valley already enjoy these benefits through the NBF or the 1199 Greater NY Benefit Fund.

Larry Williams, an environmental service worker and member of the union negotiating committee said, “My co-workers and I are dedicated to our patients. We make sure our hospital is clean and sanitary to the highest standards.  Still, the administration wasn’t valuing our work—they didn’t see how important service and maintenance workers are to providing quality care.  They made that clear by paying wages that were lower than other places in the area, and by offering health benefits that were unaffordable to most of us.”

“I don’t think they understood how many hard-working people do their jobs well every day, but if they get sick, or their children are sick, even though they work in an healthcare institution – they can’t afford to go the doctor.  My son is grown now, but I was a single father and that used to be me, so I get it!  These negotiations were not easy, but in the end, we came to a better understanding, with the hospital administration, we came together and we settled a momentous contract, raising standards in the region,” said Williams.

Andrew Bounds, a long-time RN in the operating room said that morale among many of the registered nurses was low.  “When you are not paid what you know you are worth, no matter how dedicated to the work you are, it’s hard to feel good about your job.  It’s also a challenge to attract new nurses who will stay when the hospital is already short-staffed and nurses and PCTs work many hours—sometimes without enough support  That creates a vicious circle—people leave for a better work environment, and short staffing persists. This new contract will go a long way in addressing that problem.”

Background/History: The hospital has been a part of the Poughkeepsie community for more than a century. In 1914, The Sisters of St. Francis from Hastings on Hudson, with the assistance of the Catholic Women’s organizations who made linens, opened the doors to a new 40-bed health care institution, St. Francis Hospital.  Ninety-nine years later, in 2013, the RNs, and service workers voted to become 1199SEIU members; the hospital was still called St. Francis.  However, soon after the workers became certified union members, the financially struggling hospital filed for bankruptcy. The situation grew more complex when Westchester Medical Center (WMC) acquired the hospital and renamed it MidHudson Regional. After many months, WMC recognized 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East as the sole representative of the bargaining units. That first contract, ratified in September 2015, expired on December 31, 2017; the terms and conditions of that contract were extended until the new contract was ratified this month on January 2, 2019.

The bargaining unit includes more than 600 registered nurses, patient care techs, housekeeping, dietary and other service and maintenance workers. 

In addition to the lump sum ratification, 1199 members across the board will receive annual three percent wages increases, beginning on May 1, 2019.