Remembering 1199’s History: Origin of Pro-Tech DepartmentJanuary 20, 2021
The founders of 1199 shared a deep commitment to organizing all healthcare workers regardless of job classifications. They were active in the 1930s, the heyday of industrial unionism.
Through 1199’s efforts, passage of the revised labor law in 1963 gave organizing rights to all voluntary hospital workers throughout the state. Although 1199 had successfully organized thousands of service workers by the early 1960s, Union leaders concluded that they could not bring in white collar workers without establishing a separate division.
“The professionals were reluctant to mix unionism and professionalism,” said 1199 organizing director Elliott Godoff at the time. A Bronx Montefiore Hospital research technician wrote in the August 1962 issue of 1199 News that his white-collar co-workers wanted “an organization of professional employees and for professional employees.”
Therefore, in January 1964 as part of the new Union constitution, members voted to establish the Guild of Professional, Technical, Office and Clerical Hospital Employees.
Special literature was produced for organizing campaigns stressing both economic and professional issues. Key points included fairer job classifications commensurate with experience and education, licensing legislation and educational opportunities through tuition-aid programs. The Union also underscored 1199’s rich social and cultural programs. One leaflet was headed “1199: A Swinging Union.”
Much of the literature included a photo of the legendary progressive scientist Albert Einstein, along with the statement, “I consider it important, indeed urgently necessary, for intellectual workers to build an organization to protect their own interests.”
Today, the Union represent tens of thousands of professional and technical workers in hospitals and nursing homes throughout its districts.