Boston City Councilors Show Support for Upham’s Corner Health Center Workers, As They Face Intimidation Trying to Unionize

August 31, 2023

1199SEIU to file NLRB charges over anti-union tactics; efforts to suppress majority women of color workforce

Boston, MABoston City Councilors unanimously passed a resolution on Wednesday, August 30th in support of more than 300 healthcare and homecare workers at Upham’s Corner Health Center. The workers are facing intimidation as they attempt to join the nation’s fastest growing healthcare union, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

“I often talk about the fact that my mom is now 74 years old and is still too poor to retire, because she’s never had union representation,” shared Julia Mejia, Boston City Councilor at-large, at the meeting. Mejia reflected on her mother’s and her co-workers’, college dining staff, attempt to unionize their workplace. “The effort fell short because people were afraid to go up against the establishment, and because of that work, I learned so much about the injustices that so many employees were going through. That is why I want to not just lend my voice in support here, but also when it comes to fighting to make sure that all employees are able to unionize.”

As Upham’s Corner Health Center’s management became aware of the workers’ intentions to unionize, a culture of intimidation began within the facility, with captive audience meetings where staff were questioned about their union participation. An email from human resources also encouraged workers to not indicate interest in the union.

“Management knows that once we have a union, our fight to bring quality care and fair conditions to Upham’s will be unstoppable," said a worker from Upham’s Corner Health Center, who has chosen to remain anonymous. "That’s why they’re even willing to run an anti-union campaign to keep people from joining the union. So far, workers have dealt with anti-union emails and one-on-one interrogations regarding union activities - behavior that contradicts federal labor law.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted longstanding issues within healthcare as an industry with a workforce that remains overstretched and underfunded – devaluing and threatening the health and well-being of the women, people of color and immigrants who are caring for our most vulnerable residents. To remain in the field they love, workers at Upham’s Corner Health Center began organizing to have a voice at work to address inadequate staffing, low wages, burnout, and more.

“On the verge of a national holiday celebrating the contributions of workers, healthcare workers at Upham’s Corner Health Center are being silenced,” said Tim Foley, 1199SEIU Executive Vice President. “We applaud the Boston City Council for standing with workers as they fight for fair wages, quality benefits, respect, and rights in the workplace – all the things that come with joining a union. To address the healthcare workforce shortage crisis and protect the future of care, we must value and listen to those who are on the frontlines, not try to silence them and attack their fundamental right to forming their union.”