The Work We DoOctober 18, 2023
Providing world-beating hospital care is not just about the healthcare that 1199 members deliver at the bedside. The Union members who ensure that the patients’ rooms are kept clean are just as important. Making sure that the hospital is free from dust that can aggravate respiratory conditions and bacteria that can cause infections is crucial. For patients whose conditions require a long-term stay in the hospital, the Environmental Services (EVS) team members are also friendly faces that they can see and talk to every day. The same goes for the 1199ers who work at the food services concessions, where anxious relatives can find a soothing bite to eat. While Starbucks workers around the country are battling to form unions and negotiate fair pay and conditions, the Starbucks concessions at NewYork Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan are staffed by 1199 members who enjoy all the good wages, healthcare and pension benefits of a League contract.
1. Iluminada Guzman is a Delegate who understands the value of Union benefits. She worked in home care for 20 years before joining the NY Presbyterian Children’s Hospital EVS staff four years ago. She works on a ward where children are looked after while waiting for heart transplants.
“Sometimes the children are there for many months. We become like a second family to them, as we see them every day,” says Guzman. “Occasionally the families get to know us so well that they take us into their confidence and tell us things that they don’t even share with the doctors.”
2. For Claudette Vassel who works on the EVS team at the NY Presbyterian Children’s Hospitals Cardiology, Neurology and Epilepsy monitoring ward, looking after the needs of children is similar to caring for the elderly. “I used to work in home care and for taking care of the elderly you need a soft touch. I came to the hospital five years ago after a friend who worked at the main campus suggested that I apply. I’m a serious worker and I never get in trouble. I love making sure that everything is clean.”
3. Yajaira Morel Gomez used to work in a restaurant before joining the hospital’s EVS team. She cleans the rooms in the ward where parents stay for a few days after giving birth. “It is a happy place. Parents are enjoying the arrival of their new babies,” she says, “But newborn babies are very fragile. I understand how important it is to keep their rooms free from germs that could cause infection. I’m a mother myself and I know how precious our children are."
4. Jasmine Parker is a Barista at the Starbucks concession in the Milstein building at the hospital and is in training to become an 1199 Delegate. “We have a pretty amazing contract and I wanted to make sure that other members know what is in it, so they don’t get walked over.” When the Starbucks opened almost five years ago, Parker was already working in Food Service at the hospital. “They told us it was the face of the hospital, the first thing that people see when they walk in. I like talking to people, so I applied and got the job.” Looking after two kids, aged 8 and 13, she is also glad to have the extra cash from the recent League reopener contract that the Union bargaining committee negotiated last March. “We know that our wages are higher than the average Starbucks barista, thanks to our 1199 contract.”
5. In the same ward as Guzman is EVS member, Petronila Reyes, who has worked at the hospital for 20 years and was recently presented with a Shining Star award from the hospital for the quality of her work. “I like to help people,” she says, “When they take the babies out of their intensive care beds to do further tests, I always make sure to go in and do a deep clean. For me it is so important that these fragile babies are protected from infection.” With five children of her own aged between 8 and 23, Reyes has benefited from the 1199SEIU Child Care Fund over the years. Her daughter is now studying pre-law with the help of the Fund’s Joseph Tauber Scholarship Program at Howard University in Washington, D.C.