Health Alliance first contractApril 21, 2022
On February 17, in the driving rain on a dark night, 1199SEIU members held a candlelight vigil in front of Westchester Medical Center/ HealthAlliance Hospital in Kingston, NY.
Lindsey Bradford, a Cardiac Care Monitor, said it was time to shine the light on the risks to quality care caused by short staffing.
Contract negotiations, aimed at helping to retain and recruit staff were going nowhere.
As February approached, more than a year of bargaining had gone by and management still would not acknowledge the contributions and value of the 190 service workers who, back in 2020, had voted to join 1199SEIU. In negotiations, management’s wage proposals didn’t bring wages up to even market rates and they insisted on maintaining the hospital’s expensive health insurance, refusing to consider 1199’s health and pension funds.
Meanwhile, management’s ability to appropriately staff the hospital was at an alltime low; staff were leaving and new workers didn’t stay long, Lindsey Bradford, a Cardiac Care Monitor, said “I work in health care, and I can’t even afford health care. I’ve been working at this hospital for ten years and I work without a lunch break or bathroom breaks due to shortages on staff. We can’t get new people in the door because they can work for more money elsewhere. I work 12-hr. nights/four nights a week and I still can’t afford health care or braces for my kids.
The hospital needs to stop stalling on this contract. Now.”
Gabe Valles, a clinical technician said the contract negotiations also coincided with the pandemic, which has caused more dangerous working conditions and staff shortages. “We see a larger influx of patients, longer wait times, and staff are leaving the hospital in droves,” he said.
Things were looking up at negotiations the day after the vigil. For the first time, WMC/HealthAlliance management said they would look into the 1199 National Benefit Health Fund (NBF) and indicated they understood member priorities.