As inequality continues to grow, caregivers call for good jobs that will ensure quality healthcare and economic security for working New Yorkers

New York City- A week-long voting process yielded a 95% percent yes vote in support of a one-day strike which will take place July 31st at over 100 hospitals and nursing homes if an agreement is not reached by then. Healthcare workers say they do not want to strike, and will continue negotiating in good faith to reach an agreement tonight and over the weekend. The legally required 10-day strike notices have been delivered to employers. At the request of the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes, the union will inform the League by Monday at noon whether the strike is moving forward, based upon the progress in negotiations.

Contract bargaining has now dragged on for over five months, and management has not made a comprehensive set of contract proposals. Nurses and caregivers point out that the five largest health systems had over $21 billion in revenue last year and executive compensation has been through the roof – they can afford to provide good jobs and quality healthcare for working New Yorkers.

On July 16th, employers made a new proposal specifically on the health and benefit funds which made some progress towards addressing caregivers’ concerns. 1199SEIU members are in the process of addressing some of the shortcomings of the employers’ benefits proposal with a counter-proposal.

Although some progress has been made on the issue of quality health benefits for healthcare workers, employers have made no other proposals on the issues that matter to caregivers. In particular, nurses and healthcare workers want to ensure that all healthcare jobs, especially in outpatient facilities, are good union jobs for working New Yorkers. The healthcare industry is transforming, and 35% of healthcare delivery is shifting out of hospitals into outpatient settings. Almost 45,000 new outpatient jobs will be created in New York City over the next 4 years.

“Voting yes for the strike isn’t just about me and my children, it’s for my patients and all the working families of New York,” said Francis Clarke, a certified nursing assistant at Parker Jewish nursing home in Queens. “I work with elderly patients who suffer from dementia. Because we have a union, we’re able to stand up for our patients and get the staffing we need. My co-workers and I voted to make sure that other healthcare workers have the same rights so they can have good jobs and a union voice to provide the best care.”

“I work two jobs, over 60 hours every week and often on the weekends,” said Elaine Daley, who has been a telephone operator at Mount Sinai for over 20 years. “But because I have a union, I’m better off than a lot of New Yorkers. When I drive down Church Avenue in my neighborhood in Brooklyn, I see mothers and children on breadlines. I have neighbors working three to five jobs just to keep afloat. We live in the richest city in the richest country in the world, it is shameful that working people can’t even make ends meet while the wealthy few are making millions. Mount Sinai has been growing and opening new facilities, and the system had $4.7 billion in revenue last year, they can afford to create good jobs. My co-workers and I came to work during snowstorms, Hurricane Sandy, and we always give 110% because we know New Yorkers rely on us. Now it’s time for these financially healthy employers to do their part for New York and settle a fair contract that protects good jobs and patient care. Good jobs mean healthy communities.”

“Inequality is out of control in our country, especially in New York, and it is becoming harder and harder for working people to stay here and thrive,” said George Gresham, President of 1199SEIU. “At the same time, the healthcare industry is transforming, and healthcare delivery is shifting from hospitals to outpatient facilities. These are the jobs of the future, and we need them to be good middle-class jobs so caregivers can provide quality care to our patients and decent lives for our families. But employers like Mount Sinai and North Shore LIJ have been opening outpatient facilities with substandard, non-union jobs which drag down wages, health benefits and standards for workers. New Yorkers don’t need more dead-end jobs. We will do whatever it takes to ensure quality healthcare, economic security, and opportunity for caregivers and our communities.”

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1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in New York and the nation. We represent over 250,000 healthcare workers in New York State, and over 400,000 total members throughout the East Coast.
Our mission is to achieve quality care and good jobs for all.

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    Published: July 18, 2014