Editorial: Being HeardDecember 17, 2023
Telling our stories is crucial to advancing worker-friendly policies.
As we chalk up the wins for 2023, in politics and contract negotiations, is safe to say that the labor movement has had a bumper year. All over the country, workers stood up to powerful bosses from writers and actors in Hollywood to the automotive industry to Starbucks baristas.
In our Union, members in New York saw 18 percent wage increases over the next three years in newly negotiated contracts that will directly impact roughly a quarter of 1199’s membership. Healthcare workers employed in institutions belonging to the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes won these increases for roughly 90,000 workers when they reopened their contract agreement in March. This win gave another 33,000 nursing home members the boost they needed to reopen their own contracts with the Greater New York and “Group of 65” homes and lock down the same 18 percent raises in June.
But it is crucial to remember that these victories would not have been possible without the political groundwork that our members engaged in throughout the year. To ensure that our elected representatives continue to allocate enough money to underpin the running costs in the wide variety of settings in which we work, we need to constantly remind them of the value of what we do.
As healthcare workers, the best way to get through to the politicians who determine funding priorities, is by visiting them face-to-face and telling them our own stories of how we care for the most vulnerable members of society every single day. That’s why thousands of 1199ers boarded busses to the New York State capital in March to make our collective voices heard and share our first-hand accounts, when the state’s funding priorities were being hotly contested during the state budget negotiations. <See A Look Back at 2023, p. 17>
As we begin to gear up for the for the Presidential and Congressional elections in 2024, we need hone these skills of communicating our workerfriendly message in a way that moves not only elected officials, but the voters who put them in office. In conversations with our fellow members who may be undecided, as well as when we canvass registered voters on their doorsteps, we need to explain why worker-friendly policies end up benefitting us all.
For instance, voters may hold a variety of views about whether and in what circumstances they would consider terminating a pregnancy. But since the Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to abortion in 2022, voters in six states have approved legislation to once again ensure the right to safe abortion. In Florida, 1199ers have joined this fight and are lending their voices to a campaign to put abortion rights on the 2024 general election ballot. <See Reproductive Rights, p. 14>
We have joined this campaign because it is low-income women who have limited access to healthcare in the first place, who are also unlikely to have the means to travel to another state. 1199 will always lend our weight to a campaign that ensures all people, regardless of income, have access to the healthcare they need and deserve.