UPDATE: Unity Hospital Workers Continue Their Struggle for a Fair Contract

WHAT THE FIGHT IS ALL ABOUT: We voted to form a union one year ago.  Our union was certified by the National Labor Relations Board on June 28, 2013.  That gave us the legal right to negotiate the terms and conditions of our work at Unity Living Center.  Right away, Unity management began to stall.  Negotiations for a union contract did not begin until October 1.

At that first meeting, we made a statement about what we wanted to see in the negotiations.  The statement included:  “When asked, many of the employees expressed concerns about respect, fair enforcement of rules, reasonable workloads, and especially short staffing.” We asked for recognition, representation, no discrimination, fair selection for transfer and promotion, just cause discipline, health and safety, and effective grievance and arbitration procedure.

Over these last nine months, we met with Unity management 21 times.  Piece by piece, we got them to agree to much of what we wanted,
But four important issues are left unresolved:
Fair wage increases.  Unity’s merit pay system is unfair.  Some employees get raises while others get nothing.  Unity says that pay is based on performance, but the fact is that whether a supervisor likes you or not has more to do with your pay than anything else. Unity wants to give only merit raises.  We can not agree.

Educational opportunity.  The union’s Training and Upgrading Fund is one of the most important benefits enjoyed by 1199 SEIU members.  It makes education free of charge and covers everything from GED, ESL, nursing school, and college.  1199 SEIU members have this benefit at the University of Rochester (UR), Strong Hospital, Jordan Health Center, and at all six union nursing homes in the Rochester area. Unity says that its minimal education benefit is enough.  We can not agree.

Child care.  1199 SEIU members at UR and Strong have a child care benefit that supports families with kids.  We want the same for our families.Unity says no.  We can not agree.

Union shop clause.  The law requires that every employee in a bargaining unit gets every benefit and representation by the union whether or not they are union members.  A union shop clause says that every employee who gets the benefits must share in the cost equally by paying dues.  That puts everyone in the union.  Unity management wants to make the union weak in the hopes of throwing it our some day.  They don’t want their employees in a strong union. Unity says it wants a weak union.  We can not agree.

Day by day, clause by clause, we got Unity to agree to a contract that will protect our rights, give us job security, and a voice on the job.  But while we were doing that, Unity was running out the clock.  It left meetings early, canceled scheduled meeting dates, and delayed its responses to our proposals.

DON’T BE FOOLED.  This is a serious fight.  It is a fight for whether we go back to when management could do whatever it wanted, or whether we have rights:  the right to speak out without fear of reprisal, the right to equal participation in decisions, the right to guaranteed pay and benefits in a binding contract.  This is the time to unite and finish the job that we started.  Watch out for management led tricks that would in reality cause you to sign away your rights and give up the fight.

Issued by:  1199 SEIU, 259 Monroe Avenue, Suite 220, Rochester, NY  14607  Tel: 244-0830.


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