This was an exciting year for 1199SEIU’s growing membership base, with nearly 4,000 workers joining in 2015. This new membership includes healthcare workers in all of 1199’s regions of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland/DC and Florida. Workers across a variety of job titles are represented by the newest members, including but not limited to home health aides, certified nursing assistants, nurses, social workers, lab techs and even some doctors. The largest areas of growth were in the homecare and nursing home sectors, with 1,425 and 1,009 new members, respectively. Workers at clinics and free-standing healthcare centers also joined 1199, marking a newer area of growth for the union. As healthcare shifts toward community-based settings, 1199 is dedicated to ensuring that these jobs are good, middle-class ones.In this community-based sector, 2015 kicked off with workers at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York City joining the union in January. The new members at this clinic, which serves the LGBTQ community, include doctors, nurses, social workers, patient navigators and medical assistants, among others. The Callen-Lorde workers were attracted to 1199’s long-time commitment to progressive causes, including the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, the marriage equality movement, and the fight against police brutality and racial injustice. “1199 is my choice because of their rich social justice history and ongoing dedication to meeting the needs of diverse communities,” said Leigh Howard, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with Callen-Lorde, at the time of the election.In western New York, workers at Fiddler’s Green Nursing Home in Springville voted to join 1199 in February, standing strong despite an aggressive anti-union campaign by management. In total, over 275 workers in western and central New York joined 1199 in the first few months of year. In the Hudson Valley, this November certified nursing assistants with OWS voted overwhelmingly to join 1199 in November. These workers, who are subcontracted to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, joined for job security, respect, affordable healthcare and quality patient care. Rounding out the New York state highlights in 2015 were two different nurse victories at Long Island Home and Hospital, an affiliate of the North Shore LIJ System, starting with registered nurses (RNs) in August, and followed by licensed practical nurses (LPNs) in September.The Fight for $15 movement increasingly inspired healthcare workers to stand up for fair wages for themselves and their families. In Massachusetts, following a historic victory for Personal Care Assistants who won $15 wages in negotiations with the state, homecare workers with Medical Resources Home Health Corp. in Boston stood strong against a vicious anti-union campaign by management and joined 1199 in June. These workers marked the first private homecare agency employees to form a union in Massachusetts as part of the Fight for $15. “We have joined 1199SEIU and the Fight for $15 because as homecare workers we want a living wage, a voice at work, and dignity for ourselves and our clients,” said Kirsis Nina, a homecare worker with the agency. Also inspired by the Fight for $15, this December caregivers at Coral Trace Health Center in Cape Coral, Florida stood united to become the 18th nursing home in Florida’s Consulate system to join 1199. In New Jersey, workers at FountainView Care Center in Lakewood joined with an already established group of 1199 nursing homes in their area, voting yes for dignity and respect, affordable healthcare, fair wages, job security and a voice for resident care in a March election. Also in March, workers at Arcola nursing home in Silver Spring, Maryland joined 1199. Debra Swanson was among those who wanted to form a union with her co-workers, citing the need for a better future. “I support forming a union so that I can do more for me and my daughter and help her with college.”
It’s important to our movement for good, middle-class jobs that all healthcare workers have a union voice for affordable healthcare, job security, fair wages and dignity and respect. These new members build the strength of 1199-now over 400,000 strong!