What You Are Fighting for is Justice for All Caregivers and all Working People

July 6, 2018

Benefits under threat, NYU Langone workers stand up to the healthcare mega system.


1199ers from NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan, along with their Union brothers and sisters from affiliated institutions throughout the five boroughs, held a raucous meeting April 19 at Baruch College to oppose Union busting tactics at the healthcare mega-system and press NYU Langone to treat workers fairly.

“With the Union and at the hospital [being part of The League] we had the support of a lot of people when we had problems,” said Reina Cintron, an NYU Certified Surgical Technologist for 23 years. “Now people are afraid of losing their benefits and pensions. Changes in our health coverage could put a real strain on people. They’ll be paying for things they just can’t afford.”

For decades, NYU negotiated collective bargaining agreements as part of the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Nursing Homes, an employer association of New York’s largest private, non-profit healthcare institutions. 1199’s contract with The League covers some 40,000 workers and is the Union’s gold standard in terms of wages, healthcare, pension and other benefits. But in March 2016, mid-contract, NYU withdrew from the League and moved to bargain independently with 1199SEIU. An ensuing struggle brought the issue before The National Labor Relations Board, which issued a complaint alleging the institution’s mid-term withdrawal violated the National Labor Relations Act.

Workers are anxious that NYU’s actions telegraph an intention to hack away at wages, healthcare coverage, pensions and other hardwon benefits. At the April meeting, furious workers shared their fears of consequences in the wake of NYU’s split from the League.

Andy Cassagno, a clerk at NYU Brooklyn described how dependable health coverage has eased his worries. Cassagno is a father of five whose wife suffers from a painful and unpredictable health condition.

“Right now, we have peace of mind that when she has an episode,” he said. “I am worried that will not be true in the future.” A host of community allies, 1199SEIU members and vocally supportive elected officials joined the meeting.

“It’s easy for our workers in hospitals, nursing homes and homecare to be overlooked,” said New York State Assembly member Dick Gottfried. “What you are fighting for is justice for all caregivers and all working people.”

NYU workers followed up the April meeting with a May 26 delivery of petitions to hospital CEO Robert L. Grossman demanding fairness in upcoming negotiations. To date, Grossman not responded.

Dietary worker Carmen Garcia said she was energized by the meeting and that workers needed to remain militant with eyes wide open.

“This is absolutely a time when we need to stick together and be vigilant,” said Garcia, a dietary worker at NYU’s main hospital with three of 4 kids still covered by her health benefits. “People need to attend meetings and make sure they have the correct information about what’s going on with this. If members aren’t informed they need to get informed because everything is at risk.”

- 1199 Magazine | May / June 2018