NYU Winthrop Workers Win New ContractJanuary 12, 2021
Relentless worker pressure forced the mega-system to blink.
After a protracted struggle that spanned over a year and through the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, workers at NYU Winthrop University Medical Center in Mineola, NY, have their first collective bargaining agreement as members of 1199SEIU.
The new contract brings over 1,000 NYU Winthrop workers under the umbrella of 1199’s agreement with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Nursing Homes. By remaining steadfast in the face of a powerhouse health system, NYU Winthrop workers won 3% across the board wage increases; a $1,000 signing bonus; coverage under the 1199SEIU Training and Upgrading, Pension, and Child Care Funds; and, effective 10/1/2021, coverage without co-payment or premiums under the 1199SEIU National Benefit Fund.
“This is a great victory that shows that if we unite, we can win the things we want,” said negotiating committee member James Weaver, a NYU Winthrop hospitality worker.
“The Child Care Fund and Pension Fund are so important. Nothing hurts workers more than not having benefits. When you retire after putting your blood, sweat, and tears into a job for 20 or 30 years, not having a secure retirement really hurts.”
The new agreement is hard-won.
It was the third time in recent years that NYU workers publicly had to hold the mega-system’s feet to the fire around respect and contract enforcement. NYU Winthrop workers voted overwhelmingly in 2019 for 1199SEIU membership. NYU, still smarting from its failed attempt at thwarting the organizing drive, signaled early on that it would not make easy any path to a collective bargaining agreement. Workers said, “No way!” and launched into action, holding pickets, sticker days, and walk-ins on the boss to build a united, system-wide effort against NYU’s attempts isolate NYU Winthrop workers. Social media campaigns also dinged the wealthy hospital, reminding the public that NYU’s slogan, “Made For NY” does not necessarily include workers or their families.
“After waiting so long, we thought the people who actually did the work would be more appreciated. We have watched our co-workers die; we have seen our co-workers spend five and six hours at a stretch in COVID rooms,” said PACU CSA Joe Campbell. “We’re emotionally messed up from watching people die. Is [NYU] management so rich and complacent they’ve lost their humanity?’
Throughout the struggle, workers constantly reminded NYU of their obligation to cover workers under its agreement with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Nursing Homes. Instead of abiding by their legal requirement, NYU chose to ignore the League contract and proposed a sub-standard package of wages and benefits for NYU Winthrop workers. At the same time, NYU management refused crisis pay for caregivers at the affiliates, adding insult to injury for frontline caregivers who had sacrificed so much as the pandemic engulfed New York. Workers were not having it and prepared to take the stalemate to binding arbitration. The hospital blinked. The new agreement was settled in late September and ratified nearly unanimously in an electronic vote held on Oct. 29 and 30.
“This was not a sprint, it was a marathon,” said Weaver. “We had to go one mile at a time and run at an even pace. Eventually we got across that finish line.”