Editorial: 1199’s History is One of Struggle and VictoryMay 11, 2021
Our recent nursing home victory is 1199’s story writ large.
1199SEIU members made history in April. Nursing home reforms that workers have been trying to win for decades were finally enacted by the New York State legislature. The fuse was lit last January, when angry, frustrated, and exhausted nursing home workers launched the Invest In Quality Care Campaign. Worn out by the pandemic and years of neglect, 1199ers took on a visionary, direct-action campaign that called attention to the desperate conditions in some of the state’s nursing homes, along with the lack of transparency and accountability that has allowed nursing home owners to enrich themselves. Even as workers struggled to find enough hours in the day to care for their residents.
Emboldened and mobilized by a pandemic that decimated them physically and emotionally, nursing home workers won a historic raft of provisions that included a 70/40 mandate—owners must spend 70% of their revenue on quality care for residents, including 40% for staffing—and a 5% cap on the net profits of nursing home owners.
“I am relieved more than anything else. This reform is a long time coming and I’m glad that Albany finally heard us,” said Mary Samaroo, an LPN from Far Rockaway, NY. “Knowing that I will be able to give my residents the care they deserve is wonderful. The fact that nursing home owners will be required to put residents before their personal profit and that they will be held accountable is a key to raising standards in the entire industry.”
Our foremothers were women who refused to sit down. ...We are a force to be reckoned with and in the room when decisions are made. Our job is to continue making noise. We must continue singing the songs they taught us and continue bringing our power to struggles that, no matter how old, are still worth winning.
This nursing home victory is 1199’s struggle writ large. Fed up. Tired. Enough is enough. 1199’s history—indeed its strength—is one of uprisings by the marginalized. It is the story of those considered powerless stepping into their power and wielding the might that comes with solidarity. During March’s Women’s History Month, we recalled some of our heroes who exploded the myths of irrelevance and impotence. These women led movements that took on the powerful and won important gains that have continued today to change the lives of working families. Our foremothers were women who refused to sit down. Women who refused to be quiet. Women who refused to do as they were told. And today, because of them, we are seen, and we are heard. We are a force to be reckoned with and in the room when decisions are made. Our job is to continue making noise. We must continue singing the songs they taught us and continue bringing our power to struggles that, no matter how old, are still worth winning.
Now, as we look toward our next big challenge— negotiations with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Nursing Homes—we need to remember what’s in our DNA. 1199ers do not sit down. We are and have always been heroes – we know it, and so does management. We will continue to carry that torch our forebears lit. That flame will light the way for the challenges and victories that lie ahead, and we must hold our place in this struggle. But no one is more ready for the challenge than the members of 1199SEIU.