Resetting the Standard

April 30, 2023

League members win dramatic pay increases in a contract reopener

Reseting.jpgA lot can change in four days. When the 500 members of 1199SEIU’s League Bargaining Committee started the process of negotiating with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Health Systems to reopen the contract in March, they knew they had a battle on their hands. Their existing contract did not expire until September 2024.

As the three-year anniversary of the COVID-19 lockdown approached, healthcare members were still reeling from the longterm effects of the pandemic.

Facing fatigue, burnout, short staffing, and low wages on top of a lack of appreciation by those in power for the daily sacrifices made by healthcare workers, League members demanded management come back to the bargaining table early. Having witnessed the recent contract victory of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), 1199 members knew that management had the means to do the right thing. “It was them that set that precedent,” said 1199SEIU President George Gresham.

“What’s good for NYSNA is good for us. Our expectation is that management is going to do right by all workers. We’re making a demand based on the new standards that are in place,” he said.

Screen Shot 2023-04-30 at 9.30.05 AM.pngThe demands were clear: wage increases of 7, 6, and 5 percent for the next three years and additional raises for 1199 RN members to ensure wage parity. Management began by saying they would agree to the wage increases but threatened to cut benefits—giving with one hand and taking with the other.

On Day 4 of the negotiations, members presented a “parade of medigrams”—large petitions specifically to League employers, reiterating their demands and filled with hundreds of member signatures, representing workers across all titles and facilities.

Members spoke passionately about working understaffed and being underpaid. Yolanda Pearson, PCA at Forest Hills Hospital, held up an empty medigram board, to represent the loss of life, both personally and of fellow 1199 members during the height of COVID-19.

“I haven’t forgotten about them, and we haven’t, but maybe [management] has. I’m here to remind you that we showed up every day and did what you asked us to do and went far beyond that.

Many of us got sick and died. We’re not asking or begging—we deserve what we’re [demanding]; we’ve put our sweat and blood into this,” Pearson said.

She ended with everyone standing for a moment of silence to honor those lost.

After four days of negotiations, Management came with their best and final offer—wage increases across the board for all workers—with no givebacks.

With the support of the Executive Council of the RN Division and RN bargaining members, it was a unanimous decision to vote yes for this new contract.

Brookdale RN Scheena Tannis celebrated the victory and reminded everyone that the work continues.

“Thank you to everyone,” she said. “You all made us as RN’s feel so supported. We appreciate every single person who put themselves at risk of not getting anything, but we know that he who lives to fight, lives to fight another day. We have lifted every member of 1199SEIU, and for that there is no greater win. The battle is not over, but this fight is won!”

With this tremendous victory which raises wages across the board by 18 percent over the next three years, League members have secured the highest wage increases in decades and, according to their employers, won what amounts to a roughly $3 billion investment in their future. 1199ers have now reset the standard by which members will strive to achieve across all our divisions and regions.

1199 Magazine: March / April 2023