August 23, 2019

Training and Employment Funds mark 50 years of unprecedented accomplishments.

Ladder_fa1.jpgAmong the many jewels in the 1199 crown, none shine brighter than its widely praised Training and Employment Funds (TEF). The TEF’s family of programs include the Training and Upgrading Fund, Job Security Fund, Registered Nurse Training and Job Security Fund, and Labor Management Initiatives, Inc. Together they represent the largest workforce support program in the nation.

The Funds got their start in 1969, when 1199 negotiated a $100-dollar weekly minimum wage, a pension plan and management-financed education and training. The contract campaign was waged in the midst of nationwide civil rights struggles, and was seen as a tool to address some of the worst consequences of racial and gender discrimination that had blocked the career path of many healthcare workers.

Ladder_fa2.jpgSince then, the TEF has guided 1.5 million members through myriad advancement programs. Chief among them have been 439,000 in skillenhancement programs; 324,000 in allied health programs; and 257,000 in pre-college programs. Today the Funds serve more than 40,000 workers yearly in all sectors of the healthcare industry who earn high school diplomas, undergraduate and advanced degrees. Members are also able to simply upgrade their skills or access placement services and extended benefits if laid off.

TEF programs also help meet the needs of the industry at large by addressing emerging trends. To realize its goal of helping to ensure that members and institutions obtain the skills and resources needed to provide high-quality care in a changing environment, the funds work with counselors, teachers, administrators, managers and support staff.

Over the years, the TEF expanded throughout the 1199 regions. The Upstate Region of New York today includes 58 employers and 15,000 workers. The Massachusetts Training and Upgrading Fund (TUF) covers 12,500 members across the state.

The Maryland/DC Fund covers 5,285 members, and the newest fund, in Florida, serves some 2,000 members.

Grace Bailey, an RN at Boston Medical Center, recently earned her BSN at Salem State University. Bailey, originally from Jamaica, was inspired to enter the healthcare profession by her mother, who was a midwife. Over the course of her journey from CNA to RN, Bailey says that she faced numerous obstacles. “But the staff of the Fund guided me through those years and they were a rock for all of us,” she stresses.

Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman addressed this year’s Training Fund Recognition Ceremony in Manhattan on June 11.

Bailey was one of the members from across the 1199 regions who gathered at a midtown Manhattan hotel on June 11 for the annual 1199 TEF Recognition Ceremony and to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the TEF’s founding. The annual event marks the achievements of Union members who completed a TEF program during the academic year.

Among the speakers who lauded the program were 1199 Pres. George Gresham, himself a TEF graduate; Marc Kramer, president of the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes of NY; Stacey Abrams, voting rights leader and last year’s Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia; and keynote speaker, Marian Wright Edelman, legendary civil-rights leader and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. The value of the program was dramatized through the testimonies of graduates who took the stage. “I came to the U.S. as a single mother with an 11-year-old son. We came in search of the American dream and found the American possibility,” said Brookdale Medical Center’s Andrea James, who recently earned her master’s in clinical laboratory science and management.

Student speakers at this year’s TEF Recognition Ceremony, from left, Brookdale Medical Center’s Andrea James, who graduated with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Lab Science and Management; Northwell Health’s Marion Greaves, who completed a Registered Apprenticeship as a Central Sterile Processing Technician; Boston Medical Center’s Grace Bailey, who completed a Bachelors in the Science of Nursing; and Union Community Health Center’s Griselda Lopez, who completed a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling.

Although James was a pharmacist in her home country of Guyana, she had to repeat much of her education in the U.S. because her credentials weren’t recognized in the U.S. James and her son also got their U.S. citizenship through the funds’ Citizenship Program. Many testimonies such as James’s can be found on the TEF’s Facebook page. There, graduates testify to the TEF’s use of the very best practices and principles of adult education to transform members’ lives and families, while strengthening the healthcare industry and improving society as a whole.

Ladder_fa5.jpgClaudel Bull, a former Patient Care Technician at NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan, for example, earned her High School Equivalency Diploma, took College Prep and Health Careers College Core Curriculum (HC4) courses, and completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Lehman College in the Bronx. “I am so appreciative,” says Bull, who now works as an RN on NYU’s cardio-thoracic unit. “And I will not feel complete until I give back more of myself to someone else. That is my ultimate goal.”

Tiffany Lawson was a teenaged single mom and a CNA at Brooklyn’s Brookdale Hospital when she decided that she wanted to advance her career.

“The Fund paid for my entire educational journey,” Lawson says.

“Without that help, I don’t know where I would be.”

Tamara Lawrence, a CNA at Morningside Nursing and Rehab Center in the Bronx writes on the TEF Facebook page that for many years she was unable to return to school because of family and work responsibilities. She eventually enrolled in the National External Diploma Program (NEDP). Lawrence earned her diploma earlier this year and praised the staff at the TEF’s Bronx site for their competence, encouragement and support.

“After getting my diploma, I enrolled in an LPN program, which I hope to complete in 2019,” Lawrence says. “As a mother, I want to serve as a role model for my child, and as an 1199SEIU member, I want to inspire other members to take advantage of the many educational benefits offered by the Training Fund.”

- 1199 Magazine | July / August 2019