Editorial: Raising the Volume

April 10, 2024

As working people, raising our voices together is the best way to be heard.

1199 mag raising the volume.pngOne of the most important reasons to come together as workers and form a union, is to have a voice.

We want to have a voice in how our working days are structured, so that we provide quality patient care. We also want a voice in our contract negotiations, so that we can bargain the wages and benefits that we deserve.

But as working people — even those of us who belong to a political powerhouse like 1199SEIU — it can often feel like we have little or no voice in the wider world.

What does our one vote matter when it comes to changing the challenging conditions in which many of us live?’ And it is fair point. In most elections, one vote will not move the needle by itself. The only way to make our voices heard is to band together, decide collectively which candidates are most likely to promote our interests in government, and then vote for them in an organized way as a bloc.

That is why every four years, in the months leading up to the U.S. presidential election, a representative group of 1199ers attend the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) convention to decide democratically and collectively what the political priorities of our labor movement will be.

The roughly 450,000 members in our 1199 local all live on the East Coast, from Upstate, New York to Florida, and several states in between. At the quadrennial SEIU convention, we join forces with the rest of our union family across the entire nation. Because of the pandemic, the last convention in 2020 was held virtually. Next month, when members come together from May 19-22 in Philadelphia for the quadrennial North American convention, it will be the first time in eight years that the whole SEIU family has met together in person.

Just like the United States as a whole, our national labor movement is made up of individuals from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, and gender identities. At 1199, we are particularly proud of our decades-long commitment to the civil rights struggle and promoting equal rights for women .

What binds us all together in SEIU, is that we are working people. As we like to say at 1199, when it comes to the representatives we elect to local, state, and national government, we do not have permanent friends or permanent enemies; we have permanent interests. At the national level, the Republican Party in Congress has become so extreme in its determination to slash Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security that as healthcare workers can no longer support their candidates. Republicans are once again even threatening to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which now provides health coverage for forty-five million people!

The Joe Biden and Kamala Harris administration, on the other hand, has worked hard to lower prescription drug costs, and saved Americans who rely on the ACA for their healthcare $800 annually. This November, we have to scrutinize the records of each party when it comes to what they have done, or have not done for working people. We must ensure we get ourselves, and all of our family and friends to vote for the candidates who will protect our rights and our economic stability. If we stay unified in our purpose, our voice in Washington D.C. will be loud.