Real life turned a wary member into a Union activist.

Janine Bassi did not start out as a union activist. In fact, she took some convincing before she could see the value of collective bargaining. But once she understood the basic concepts, she was all in.

“I’ve been at Southampton Hospital for two and a half years and this is my first job in a union shop,” says Bassi, “I was a little bit nervous at first about what the dues would be and how the union would affect my career and my life. But I have to say that it has been nothing but beneficial.”

Bassi works as a clinical laboratory technologist at Southampton Hospital on Long Island, NY. She’s an active delegate and leader in her shop and recently completed a stint as a temporary organizer, during which she helped workers at Hudson River Healthcare win their May union election.

“I now understand that our dues pay for the entity that helps us to obtain benefits. How could people come together to force the employers’ hand on wages and benefits otherwise?

“I’m getting ready to go back to school to get my Master’s degree and to know that the cost is covered by the 1199 National Benefit Fund is a huge weight off my shoulders,” says Bassi.

Before she was hired at Southampton Hospital, Bassi relied on her husband’s health insurance plan to pay for herself and her four children.

“When you add it all up, we were paying about $600 a month in premiums for the family, plus copays.

With 1199 there are no co-pays or premiums, so the savings quickly mount up,” she affirms. Bassi has a keen understanding of the value of her benefits; she has a condition called Sjogren’s syndrome, which is associated with Lupus and causes dry eyes and throat. She requires twice-daily medication to keep it under control. Without her 1199 insurance, she would be paying co-pays for her many rheumatologists’ visits.

“It is not only people that can afford it that deserve health care,” says Bassi.

“We’re like a family in the Union. Our job is to protect each other like you would your family. For instance, we have to look out for our housekeeping colleagues and not just people like myself who work in radiology,” she adds. “Southampton is an expensive place.

Without fair compensation how can you afford to live here?”

Twenty years ago, Bassi worked as a home health aide in Albuquerque, NM, earning $10 an hour. When she came to New York, she says, she couldn’t believe that people didn’t even have the same wages. Now she truly understands the value of collective bargaining:

“The Fight for $15 was very important. There is such a great need for home care. It is hard, backbreaking work. But it is what our elders deserve. Our union colleagues deserve to be paid fairly for it.”

She also warns against losing sight of the vulnerability of nonunionized workers. Says Bassi: “We need to remember that we should never choose individual money over collective power.”

1199 Magazine | July / August 2017