A Lifelong Commitment

April 10, 2024

1199 Mag A lifelong commitment.jpgAn 1199 retiree explains why her political action with the Union never stops.

Evette Weeks felt an affinity with labor unions from an early age. Growing up in the South American country of Guyana, her mother played an important role in a transportation workers union. Weeks remembers handing out water to striking members as a child.

However, it was not until much later that she became a Union member herself, when she started working as a Nursing Assistant at what was then the New York Methodist hospital in Brooklyn in 1989. When she joined the healthcare workforce, it was a time of great upheaval and change at 1199.

Following a change in leadership in the wake of the Save Our Union campaign, members had just successfully turned the tables on management at the bargaining table with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes.

After a series of short strikes, 1199ers were able to negotiate a much stronger settlement, which clearly reestablished the Union as an important force in New York City’s health care industry.

At that time, 1199 was engaged in its decisive battle with the League, Weeks had only just completed her schooling to become a Nursing Assistant. “A lot of nursing homes were closing in 1989. I knew that a hospital close to me was hiring, but I also heard they might be going on strike, and I did not want to cross a picket line,” she remembers.

After moving to the U.S. at age 24, Weeks began her career working on Wall Street. “But because of my involvement with a union as a child, I always wanted a union job,” she says. “On Wall Street, you could be hired and fired in the same day. So, I decided to go back to my first love, which was health care.

“In 1989, I started working as a Nursing Assistant in a nursing home and then moved to a per diem position at Methodist soon after the League contract was settled,” Weeks adds. “When I got a call from HR offering me a permanent Nursing Assistant job, I thought it was one of my classmates pulling my leg. I couldn’t believe it had come about so quickly.”

Weeks was soon promoted to Nurse Tech which meant she took on more responsibility, performing procedures like phlebotomy, EKGs, Trach care, dressings and tube feedings. At the beginning, this change caused tension with the RNs and LPNs at the hospital. But that did not last long.

“I also regularly attended Union meetings and went to Albany rallies and encouraged coworkers to go too,” she says. But it was not until she retired roughly 14 years ago, that she became deeply involved in 1199 activities and political action. “When you’re young with a family and a full-time job, you can easily get lost in that. But it’s important to get involved,” she adds.

Now a member of the Executive Board of Retirees, she attended recent League negotiations before the pandemic and witnessed the contract signing.

When Democratic candidate Tom Suozzi faced a tough electoral battle to flip the 3rd US Congressional District blue in February, Weeks made calls to get out the vote.

“I’m so scared about the presidential election in November,” she says. “I will do anything I can to make sure that everyone I know turns out to vote. I would encourage both current and future retirees to contribute to the Political Action Fund by signing up for the automatic $5.00 monthly deduction from their pension. As retirees, we are no longer paying dues, so this will be our continuous contribution towards the fight, not only for this upcoming November General Election, but in the future. With this simple action we will always be a part of the political struggle guaranteeing us a seat and a voice at the political table and inclusion with contract negotiations as we continue to live out our motto "RETIRED but ACTIVE.”