New Organizing: Caregivers North & South are Voting 1199

August 22, 2018

neworg.jpg“We needed to form a union to help us secure our rights. There is more power when we fight together.”

Over the past few months, more than 900 workers at clinics, hospital and home health agencies have voted to join 1199SEIU.

Among the more dramatic victories was the June 26 organizing victory at Whittier Street Health Center in Roxbury, MA. in which workers voted 50 to 9—more than 5 to 1—in favor of 1199SEIU representation. The Whittier workers included doctors, nurses, therapists and other professionals who chose unionization after an acrimonious organizing effort that included harassment, the filing of unfair labor practice charges and the pre-election firing of 13 Union activists. Whittier management even invalidated workers’ clinic entry passes while they were treating patients.

Wide-ranging public outreach brought a maelstrom of criticism upon Whittier’s administration, including rebukes from numerous elected officials, including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and City Councilor At Large Ayana Pressley. Just hours before the Union vote management reinstated the dismissed workers. Domestic Violence Councilor Brenna Cyr was among the fired workers. Cyr framed the organizing effort in terms of quality patient care.

“This is about ending disparities in health care. This is about developing a partnership with management so that workers have shared voice to advocate for our patients and shared voice in the future of this clinic,” said Cyr.

neworg2.jpgA Federally Qualified Health Center, Whittier is a multi-service institution which offers care to one of the Boston area’s poorest communities. “People who work here put up with difficult conditions,” said Dr. John Jewett, a Whittier ER doctor who helped lead the organizing drive. “Our patients have a lot of stressors in their lives, and people who work here could be working other places, but they dedicate themselves to the patients here.” In a June 14 vote, 61 caregivers at Florida’s Mentor Health voted overwhelmingly to join 1199. Mentor Health facilities are located throughout Florida and serve disabled individuals. Caregivers faced a strong anti-union campaign but stood strong.

Mentor Health caregiver Mona Ocean cited the organizing drive’s solidarity.

“We needed to form a union to help us secure our rights. There is more power when we fight together,” she said.

Further north, in Brooklyn, NY, 109 home health aides from the Palm Beach Agency also said yes to 1199 membership in a mail ballot election. The ballots were mailed in June and counted on July 6. Palm Beach aides were working without affordable health insurance, adequate paid time off for vacations and public holidays, as well as respect on the job.

In New York’s lower Hudson Valley, 400 workers said yes to 1199 membership in a pair of June elections. Good Samaritan Medical Center’s professional workers voted June 20 to join the hospital’s existing 1199 bargaining unit. A day later, Northern Westchester Hospital’s technical workers voted three-to-one for 1199SEIU membership.

And on July 18 at Baltimore’s Chase Brexton Health Center, 75 clerical, service and maintenance workers joined the institution’s previously organized bargaining unit.

Farther north, in Upstate New York, 81 service workers Highland Park Rehab in Wellsville voted 1199SEIU in a July 18 election. And a day later, 18 service workers at Orchard Brooke Living Center in Orchard Park followed up with their own vote to join.

1199 Magazine: July / August 2018