Women’s Rights

Healthcare Workers Get Out The Vote for Candidates Who Will Ensure the Passage of Progressive Legislation for Working New Yorkers

September 10, 2014
In the Democratic Primary, the 275,000 New York State members of 1199SEIU proved their strength in the electoral arena once again through a strategic and statewide effort. Not only did they help secure victory for the top of the ticket, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Lt. Governor candidate Kathy Hochul, but they also provided support to key Senate candidates in a number of important and closely watched races.

1199 members in Queens were successful in helping former NYC Council member Leroy Comrie oust Senator Malcolm Smith, who is facing trial on bribery charges. The Union also mobilized support for incumbents Tim Kennedy, Toby Ann Stavisky, Adriano Espaillat, Gustavo Rivera and Jeffrey Klein, who all appear to be fending off challengers.

“We endorsed candidates who share our core values of quality healthcare, good jobs and equal opportunity for all,” said Political Director Kevin Finnegan. “Moving toward the General Election, we will continue to put the full force of our union into ensuring a strong Democratic majority in the legislature. We want to make sure that they pass a full set of progressive legislation, including local living wage laws, the Dream Act, campaign finance reform and women’s rights.”

The 1199 effort included a massive mobilization of member volunteers, direct mail, phone banking, online organizing and social media, door knocking at members’ homes and text messaging. Leading up to the election, union staff and volunteers placed over a quarter million phone calls to 1199SEIU members and had over 20,000 face-to-face and phone conversations. The mobilization also included more than 70 mailings, totaling 240,000 pieces and more than 200 social media posts.

1199SEIU members are known for being highly engaged in electoral politics and governmental affairs. They volunteer and vote in high numbers, and are active in their local communities, advocacy organizations, schools and places of worship.

While former 1199 organizer Dell Smitherman did not win his bid for State Senate District 19, 1199 members are proud of the effort they made on his behalf. Marilyn Green, a Brooklyn homecare worker with over 25 years of service said, “While the rich get richer, the poor are getting poorer and working people can't keep our heads above water. Healthcare workers can’t just stand on the sidelines at this moment, we need to make our voices and opinions heard. I'm for fairness and that's why I got involved in politics at a very young age and why I worked on Dell Smitherman’s campaign. 1199 members knocked on doors for a lot of other campaigns too, to make sure that the Senate can carry through with policies that represent regular working people.”

1199SEIU members worked hard outside of the New York City boroughs. In Buffalo, they helped elect Senator Tim Kennedy, whowas reelected. . ”Tim Kennedy used to work in health care and was a leader in the fight for winning passage of the Safe Patient Handling Act. He has always been there for healthcare workers and I thought it was important that me and my co-workers made sure he was re-elected,” said Kim Utech, a school-based RN at Kaleida Health in Buffalo.

Finnegan said that 1199’s involvement in elections is not simply about candidates, but also making sure that New York’s elected leaders are ready to shape a new kind of healthcare system, with improved access to quality care for patients and family sustaining jobs for healthcare workers.

The union’s upcoming legislative agenda also includes the passage of bills that were previously blocked by Senate Republicans, including increased protection from assaults on frontline caregivers and a career ladder for homecare workers that will allow them to provide the best care to seniors and people with disabilities.

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