Editorial: Shaping the Future Honors Our Past

June 4, 2019

We will not fight each other for crumbs while the powerful take the pie.

LGBTQ_Editorial_fa.jpg1199 is unique in this world. Our Union was founded not only as a workers’ rights organization, but also as one of freedom fighters. Written into our Constitution is our mission to unite all people, regardless of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, national origin, or politics. Our founding document also demands we advance and defend all forms of civil rights and civil liberties and eliminate all forms of discrimination and racism.

The right wing has tried to turn the label of social justice warrior on its head, but we wear it proudly. There are no so-called “snowflakes“ in 1199. Our history is proof. This year marks the 60th anniversary of our foundational organizing drive at seven New York City hospitals. The effort shed light on the living conditions of New York’s working poor and helped lift tens of thousands of hospital workers out of poverty. We’re also commemorating the historic 1969 hospital strike in Charleston, S.C., that with ’Union Power and Soul Power’ gave birth to our National Union and the 1199 we know today; and we’re marking the 50th anniversary of our Training Fund, which has helped hundreds of thousands of workers onto the ladder of success and better lives.

None of these things came without struggle. The fights were led largely by people—mostly Black and Brown women—whose history is one of marginalization and discrimination. Yet they prevailed, in part because they understood their expansive and illuminating collective power. That is their legacy. So, we honor them by turning toward the stranger, by helping others stand up and be seen, and by striving for meaningful change, knowing no one will be free if we don’t continue the work of our forebears.

Whether it’s the fight for workers’ rights, racial justice, LGBTQ rights, environmental justice, housing justice or gender equality, we 1199ers must affirm our dedication to unity and our refusal to be picked apart. Our union may have grown in size and reach since 1969, but our spirit and our mission—which have always been ahead of their time—are very much the same. We will support each other and stand up for each other. We will not fight each other for crumbs while the powerful take the pie.

1199 Magazine: May / June 2019