Remembering 1199's History: We Struck for 11 Days in July 1976

July 20, 2021

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During the economic downturn of the mid-1970s, employers fired and laid-off workers en masse. New York City placed its finances under the quasi-receivership of bankers and corporate bosses. In 1973, 1199 was the only union in the nation to strike against the cuts imposed by the Nixon Administration’s Cost of Living Council.

In 1972 and 1974, the Union won most of its contract demands with New York’s League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes through arbitration. Therefore, during the 1976 contract negotiations, the Union found itself in the unusual position of pressing the League to agree to binding arbitration.

Convinced that the state if pressured would provide the necessary funding, the Union struck 33 voluntary hospitals for 11 days, beginning on July 7. Management agreed to arbitrate, but the arbitrator decided that wages would be frozen for the first six months of the contract, followed by a wage bonus in the second six months. The base pay of the members was not raised.

The disappointing contract convinced 1199ers that in the future they would rely on their strength on the picketline rather than arbitrated decisions. “We have been deceived before, and we do not intend to go the same route again,” President Leon Davis told members.

Two years later, the members’ strength and unity produced a far different result. New York Gov. Hugh L. Carey stepped in during a dramatic last-minute negotiating session. Members won a 14.5 percent increase over two years. 1199 News praised the settlement as a corrective to the last contract and a “catching up with the cost of living.”