Members Ready for League and Nursing Home Contract TalksJuly 19, 2021
Heroes unite! This is our fight!
1199SEIU members have commenced preparations for contract negotiations with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes and Group and Greater Nursing Homes by sending a strong message that the same workers who were called heroes during evening rounds of applause and on splashy banners, need to be recognized the same way at the bargaining table.
“We have given everything we have to these institutions,” says League Negotiating Committee Member Carmen Batista, a secretary at NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan. “Our work makes these hospitals the world-class facilities they are. They will not allow them to disregard us when we sit down at the bargaining table.”
It is indisputable that healthcare workers gave everything they had every day in the fight against COVID-19. Many made the ultimate sacrifice, yet at bargaining time workers, still have to worry about fighting for livable wages and protecting the lifesaving healthcare benefits and that their families depend on.
“COVID put a lot of things in perspective for me and my coworkers.
We were labeled heroes in the middle of the pandemic and continued to work like we always had,” says PCT Nancy Stokes, a negating committee member from Mid-Hudson Regional Hospital in Hudson, NY. “And then [management showed us] we still wind up having to fight for everything, so you know what? Now we will fight even harder for everything. We will fight to protect the pensions, healthcare and wages we deserve.”
League and Nursing Home negotiating committee elections were held in the spring, with May and June retreats kicking off formal bargaining prep and the development of contract proposals.
Though contract negotiations will be largely virtual, workers have already been demonstrating their readiness. In addition to chapter meeting, trainings, and contract and communication captain elections, League members have conducted a number of sticker days and “flood the phones” call ins to management.
“We have to be ready to go in there and fight for the things we want,” says negotiating committee member Nikosa Collins, a cytotechnologist at New York- Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan.
“We have to go in and say, ‘if you don’t give us what we need we are prepared to go on strike!’ A lot of people don’t realize that we maintain what we have contract to contract and this year is no different—whether they call us heroes or not.”
The League was founded in 1968 and currently represents 109 nonprofit hospitals, nursing homes and healthcare institutions throughout the New York City metropolitan area. And 1199’s collective bargaining agreement with the employer association is the Union’s gold standard contract. In the nursing home industry, the Group and Greater employer associations represent some 160 nursing homes throughout downstate New York.
Altogether, about 600 1199ers sit on the two negotiating committees. And they are hyped up and ready to go to the table and protect it.
Led by 1199SEIU President George Gresham and Union attorney Dan Ratner, the Union’s League negotiating committee is preparing to set forth a list of demands that cover wage increase, our Funds, staffing, new organizing, and RN and pro-tech issues. Nursing home members, led by Ratner and Executive Vice Presidents Yvonne Armstrong and Milly Silva are determined to protect their health benefits and wages, and win major improvements to their pensions. As in previous negotiations, workers are expecting a raft of management complaints about pensions, healthcare costs and organizing.
“One thing we know is that they are going to fight us tooth and nail,” Senior EVP for Long Term Care Yvonne Armstrong told negotiating committee members at a June 4 meeting. “Everything in our industry is a fight.”
Workers are vowing to stand together against any threats to healthcare and pensions and any talk intended to divide workers from one another. While 1199ers acknowledged bargaining challenges, one thing that is not up for debate is their professionalism, dedication, and sacrifice.
“Healthcare workers went in day after day, often without access to proper PPE,” said committee member Jim Wendt, a nuclear medicine technologist at Bon Secours Medical Center in Port Jervis, NY. “We saw many people get sick, many had to be intubated and some passed away and not once did I hear one of my co-workers say, ‘I’m not going into that room or I’m not going to treat that patient’.
President Gresham praised the committees’ toughness, encouraging levelheaded clarity in the face of League pressure and the tremendous challenges that will arise as we recover from COVID-19.
“I’m excited and hopeful. I know I’m not going into this battle alone; there other [workers] in the same situation as us sitting in those negotiations,” says Nancy Stokes, a first-time negotiating committee member. “Our hospital may be the new kid on the block with the League, but we are all facing the same issues.”
At press time, ratification of 1199’s League and Nursing Home demands was under way, with a broader rollout set for later in the month.