Around Our UnionJanuary 3, 2023
Kaleida members win 12 percent increases after tough fight
More than 6,300 healthcare workers at the largest private hospital system in Western New York won a new three-year contract in October, which includes wage increases of at least 12 percent and improved RN wage scales to help recruit and retain amid the national shortage. With this contract, Kaleida members will maintain their status as the highest paid healthcare workers in the region.
The agreement covers 1199SEIU and CWA local 1168 members at three major hospitals, two nursing homes and several community-based clinics—and includes annual bonuses of up to $1,500 for some service workers, pension improvements and more than 500 new positions to ensure staffing ratios.
The victory did not come easily. It took eight months of bargaining and member action.
Nearly 2,000 members gathered for an informational picket in midAugust and when the member-led bargaining committee still didn’t see movement from management, the committee called for a strike vote. After 96 percent of members voted in favor, a 10-day notice was issued.
With the threat of an allout strike hanging over them, Management came back to the table. An agreement was finally reached on October 2nd, which recognized the significant contribution the members had made throughout the pandemic.
Union nursing home workers meet with Biden administration
Dozens of 1199SEIU nursing home members from New York and Massachusetts took part in the national Healthcare Heroes Assembly in Washington D.C. in early December.
Alongside fellow union activists from across the country, members met with officials from the Biden administration to demand legislation and funding for minimum care standards, increased staffing levels, and measures to hold nursing home corporations accountable for not meeting federal care standards.
Members took time to reflect and pay tribute to those who lost their lives as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the nation’s nursing homes and workers fought for basic protections for themselves and their residents.
The Assembly also gave union activists from all over the country a chance to connect with each other, share their stories and celebrate their victories.
NEW YORK CITY
Home Care members picket across NYC for promised Federal funds
While the Democrats were in control of Congress, they were able to pass the American Rescue Plan Act, which included millions of dollars of new funding for Home and Community Based Services (HCBS). Much of this money was intended to improve wages and benefits to help recruit and retain home care workers. There is an enormous and growing shortage of home care workers across to country as the population ages.
Unfortunately, not all home care agencies used this federal money to fund better healthcare coverage and higher wages for their workforces. Throughout the Spring and Autumn, 1199 home care members mounted a series of informational pickets outside these agencies to ensure workers finally receive the pay and respect they deserve—as well as help to support their families, as they continued to work tirelessly to ensure quality care for their patients.
NY Presby members celebrate Trans Awareness Week
Members of the union family gathered at the Children’s Hospital of New York (CHONY), New York Presbyterian campus in Washington Heights on November 17, to celebrate and educate passers-by about issues facing the transgender community.
Trans Visibility Week traditionally takes place in the week running up to Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20, a day which memorializes the victims of transphobic violence.
This year’s celebration came at a time of increased fear and uncertainty for trans Americans. On the eve of TDOR, a shooter opened fire at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, CO, killing five people and injuring 25 others. In 2022 alone, over 150 anti-trans bills were introduced in state legislatures across the country, targeting trans youth participation in sports and gender-affirming healthcare.
Active shooter subdued at Buffalo clinic soon after 1199ers pressed for enhanced security
On the morning of November 10 a man carrying what witnesses described as an AR-15 style rifle entered the Alba de Vida clinic in Buffalo’s Lower West Side neighborhood. Moments before entering the clinic, the man allegedly shot a 47-year-old woman in the leg at a nearby residence.
Inside the clinic, the gunman was quickly subdued by two security guards who had been hired just two months prior, after 1199 members called for increased safety measures during a labor management committee meeting. No one was injured in the clinic incident, though several shots were fired.
Dionne Brown, an 1199 Licensed Practical Nurse at the clinic, told the Buffalo News: "We work there every day. We see the climate of people and their anxiety and mental issues. We knew that if we didn't speak up about it, that a bad outcome was possible any day.
"I thank God that management listened to us and really got on the ball and hired new people. Because if it wasn't for them, I don't know how it would have ended."
The clinic is run by Promesa Inc, an affiliate of Acacia Network, a leading human services organization in New York City and the largest Hispanic-led nonprofit in the state.
Wrongly-convicted son of 1199 officer speaks to President Biden on reform
JJ Velazquez who spent nearly 24 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit, was invited to speak about criminal justice reform at a forum convened by President Joe Biden and the Now This News media outlet.
Velazquez was ultimately granted clemency and released in September 2021, when he was 46-years-old.
“The system is not designed to rehabilitate,” Velazquez told the President. “What I’ve learned from my time in prison is that there are a lot of good people who made bad choices when they were too young to really understand the scope of what life consists of.”
President Biden talked about having increased access to education in federal prisons since he took office and having pardoned 6,500 who were serving federal time for “simple possession” of cannabis.
Velazquez, who spent his incarceration in a state prison, said Biden’s action did not go far enough.
“People have to be able to secure employment and housing, because the sad reality is the majority of individuals who are released into society can actually get their hands on a gun or some drugs before they can secure employment or housing,” Velazquez said.
1199ers join the fight for NYS minimum wage hike
It has been more than a decade since the #FightFor15 movement to increase the minimum wage in New York State was first conceived. Even though the campaign—led in large part by Union members— succeeded in writing a $15 minimum wage into law in NYS, inflation has continued to mount.
To make sure working people’s wages do not fall further behind, 1199 members joined a labor rally outside of New York’s City Hall on November 15, urging state lawmakers to make sure the minimum wage keeps pace with inflation.
Silvanis Kydd, an 1199 Home Health Aide with the People Care agency, told the rally, “We all know that the costs of living has gone up. Even though I make a little more than $15 an hour, it's still not enough to cover my food, bills and rent. My rent just went up with my new lease and I'm having to work more hours to cover it. We all need the minimum wage increase so that we can properly care for ourselves and our families. When you have to work extra hours, sometimes even extra jobs to cover basic needs, you don't have time for anything else.”
1199 is backing a bill introduced by State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner that seeks to tie the state’s minimum wage to the rate of inflation. Counties north of the New York City Metropolitan Area would hit $15 by the end of 2023 and have their minimum pay tied to inflation after that.