New York, NY – In a move that calls to mind real estate giant Related’s decision to cease bargaining with the Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York over the Hudson Yards development — NYU Langone Medical has decided to withdraw from citywide bargaining with hospital workers. And just like the construction industry, the fight to stop a “race to the bottom” in New York City healthcare has begun.
“I’m so Angry about this fight,” Norma Amsterdam, 1199SEIU executive vice-president, told a room full of anxious hospital workers on Thursday night.
More than two years ago, in March, 2016, NYU Langone — one the nation’s premiere academic medical centers with facilities throughout the five boroughs of New York — abruptly informed 1199SEIU that it was pulling out of the League of Voluntary Hospitals and ending a multi-employer collective bargaining relationship that had endured for a half century.
[NYU Langone] paid $68 Million to get out of the League,” Amsterdam continued. “If they’re prepared to do that — and they did it — be prepared for what’s going to come after.”
Without the multi-employer collective bargaining relationship that the League of Voluntary Hospitals afforded hospital workers, 1199SEIU members fear that hard-fought for benefits and retirement plans will be put in severe jeopardy.
“We had to fight NYU to get into the League,” 30-plus year NYU Langone veteran and cancer survivor Darell Clarke said. “We fought for this — really fought for this. Who are you, now, [NYU Langone] to tell us you’re going to take it away from us? I don’t think we should allow NYU to take us backwards.”
Both 1199SEIU’s contract with NYU Langone and the League expires on the same day this coming October.
“Our contract campaign will mimic the League campaign,” 1199SEIU Executive VP Veronica Turner vowed. “[NYU Langone] has to answer to us — not the 5,000 members at NYU, Lutheran [Medical Center] and HJD [Hospital for Joint Diseases]. They have to answer to the 450,000 healthcare workers of 1199. We are one unit.”
Although NYU Langone’s decision to pull out of the League of Voluntary Hospitals is technically not illegal, 1199SEIU contends that the timing of the withdrawal was, in fact, illegal because it was done with roughly two years remaining on an active contract.
The union has filed charges at the National Labor Relations Board challenging the withdrawal, as well as the medical center’s alleged attempts, in the summer of 2016, to stifle informational picketing on hospital grounds.
“Our contract campaign will mimic the League campaign,” 1199SEIU Veronica Turner-Briggs vowed. [NYU Langone] has to answer to us — not the 5,000 members at NYU, Lutheran [Medical Center] and HJD [Hospital for Joint Diseases].
That court case wrapped up this year at the end of January. An administrative judge’s decision is pending.
“It’s very important that we stick together, Registered Nurse Joy Thomas said. “Whatever changes the hospital makes, it’s going to affect all of us. It’s going to affect our families, it’s going to affect our patients.”
Amsterdam put NYU Langone’s decision to pull out of the League of Voluntary Hospitals in context with the corporate class’ ongoing attacks on the nation’s working men and women.
“In the environment that we’re in, brothers and sisters, there’s an attack on the Labor Movement,” Amsterdam said. “Just reflect on where we were, and where we are today. What would have happened to the working class people if not for the unions? I know that they [NYU Langone] want to push us back.”
NYU Langone says it resigned from the League in March 2016 because “it had become very difficult for the League to adequately represent NYU Hospital as an employer along with more than 50 League member institutions—all of whom have different interests.”
“NYU Hospital wanted the opportunity to have a direct dialogue with 1199 about the matters unique to its workplace that are important to everyone working at NYU Hospital,” they said in a statement.
Surgery Tech Rayon Henry called out Nancy Sanchez, Joe Lhota and other members of NYU Langone’s executive leadership team for orchestrating the League pull out.
“Put a face to this — that’s who’s trying to take our benefits and hurt us indirectly,” Rayon said.