Offsite Montefiore Workers Got Sick From COVID-19, But They Aren’t Getting Hazard Pay

June 19, 2020

New York, NY – 1199SEIU members gathered for a candlelight vigil at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx yesterday — while some members who work in the hospital’s main campus and satellite facilities have received crisis pay during the ongoing pandemic — others who work in non-clinical departments in three offsite locations have not. The union believes all members who worked during the pandemic are entitled to crisis pay.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services distributed $12 billion to 395 hospitals that provide inpatient care for 100 or more Covid-19 patients, and Montefiore Hospital-Moses Campus was the fourth hospital to receive the most funding — a total of $156.7 million.

Montefiore has paid $2,500 to its staff in clinical settings, but according to the union, it refuses to pay staff who work in billing, processing and communications in three offsite locations: the Family Health Center at 1 Fordham Plaza, Montefiore Health System at 555 South Broadway in Tarrytown, and the Montefiore Hudson Valley Collaborative on 3 Executive Boulevard in Yonkers.

The hospital claims that the workers in the three offsite locations aren’t entitled to hazard pay because they didn’t have to treat or face patients directly, even though they worked during the pandemic, as did clinical staff.

Patrick Forde, 1199SEIU’s vice-president, told the approximately 50 members attending this week’s vigil that Montefiore isn’t treating its workers equally.

“The reason we’re here is because there’s over 1,000 workers who work in the offsite locations that were promised the $2,500 bonus but did not receive it. We’re saying to this employer, who said that it couldn’t afford the bonus even after receiving the stimulus money, it should have been easy to pay the offsite workers, but that didn’t happen,” said Forde.

The 1199SEIU VP noted that it would cost the hospital about $2.5 million to pay just over 1,000 workers, which is less than four-percent of the $156 million the hospital received.

The members received support from elected officials at the vigil, including Councilman Andy King and New York State Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez (D).

“I stand with you because with you there is no hospital, there is no Montefiore. You deserve your hazard pay, and it is a shame, how dare they try to differentiate from what is essential to maybe not so essential,” said Fernandez.

Additionally, King said that he would work with his council colleagues to ensure that Montefiore offers crisis pay to the offsite staff.

“I will talk to other colleagues, we’ll pull levers together, and we’ll reach out to urge Montefiore to do the right thing by its staff, because without its staff there is no Montefiore.”

Almitra Yancey works at the Tarrytown offsite location as a customer service liaison; as a representative she’s responsible for answering inbound phone calls for Montefiore’s 22 clinics, as well as scheduling and billing. Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, her site has become the Covid-19 hotline for testing all of Montefiore’s employees.

She wasn’t initially upset when she was told by Montefiore that she wasn’t receiving hazard pay because she’s wasn’t working in the hospital, but nonetheless, feels that her job is essential.

“I do feel as though our jobs are still essential,” she said. “We had to work through so many phone calls, we became counselors overnight. In addition to having that fear of getting the virus, I felt that any member working in healthcare should have gotten that pay, no one should have been left out.”

Adriana Rivera, also works at an offsite location. Rivera said she attended the vigil because she and her colleagues aren’t recognized as equals for hazard pay. She noted that it was tough leaving her family members to go to work during the pandemic.

“Our offsite was left out,” Rivera said. “We should have been included. We saw patients, we were in constant fear that we would get sick, and eventually some of us did get sick. But with all that, we still came in, so we’re here to say that we shouldn’t have been forgotten.”