NEW YORK — “Everybody’s fighting back,” some two dozen workers chanted as they joined an informational picket line outside the Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center here July 12. “Nurses, fighting back. Housekeeping, fighting back. Food service, fighting back,” they continued chanting, with different workers yelling out their job.
More than 100 workers picketed outside Mt. Sinai Hospital a few blocks away. Their shouts of “union strong” could be heard a block away. Many workers came out and joined the protest during their lunch break.
Health care workers at more than 100 hospitals, nursing homes and medical centers throughout the greater New York area — including Long Island and the Hudson River Valley — also protested in front of their workplaces July 12. They’re fighting against demands by the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes of New York bosses to cut pensions, medical care, training and other things that affect both the workers and the people they care for.
The league is the umbrella industry organization. It negotiates a contract with Local 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East that is then used as a model in negotiations with other employers. So the bosses’ concession demands are a threat throughout the industry. In addition to the picket lines, the union has organized a series of “Purple Up” days, where workers wear their purple union T-shirts.
“The company wants to end the option to retire at age 62 for those with 10 years of service,” said Jennifer Tull, who works at Cardinal Terence Cooke nursing home. “I’ve already been here 18 years and I’m 53 years old. Everything’s already giving out,” she said, noting the toll the job took on her body. “They hope we die before they have to pay us our pension.”
“We provide quality care,” her co-worker Toiyeuco Baker-Fann, said. “But we don’t get quality care. They don’t care about the people who do the work.”
Vivian Boahene, who provides patient care at Mt. Sinai Hospital, explained the bosses are also demanding cuts to medical insurance. “They want us to pay $80 for each doctor’s visit,” she said.
Local 1199SEIU announced July 16 that an agreement had been reached with the League of Voluntary Hospitals on a new three-year contract.