This story has been updated.
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Unionized healthcare workers represented by 1199SEIU at NYU Langone last Wednesday formed a picket line, telling passersby about the medical center pulling out of the League of Voluntary Hospitals. The League acts as a bargaining agent for negotiations with various unions, including 1199.
Healthcare workers claim that the action is an attempt by NYU to cut benefits and that the hospital will eventually cut payments to the 1199 Health and Benefits Fund.
“NYU has put on the table that they want us to pay for our dependent healthcare,” pharmacy technician Jasmine Jeffrey said. “Being that I have five dependents, I won’t be able to pay for that healthcare, so I have to fight for that. I can’t let it go.”
The union insisted that the picket wasn’t a strike but was an “informational” picket to raise awareness about NYU’s attempts to change health benefits for workers.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer both joined caregivers on the picket line.
“This union is very strong because it represents the best of a great, great group of people, but it also important for us to show support,” Stringer said. “They should not be on the picket line alone. And this informational moment is important for New Yorkers to understand the challenges that Union healthcare workers face every day. They worry about paying the rent and taking care of their babies, and we have to stand with them and that’s why I’m here. And I am here also because I recognize a healthy economy should include everybody and that includes 1199 healthcare workers.”
UPDATE: When asked for comment, a spokesperson for NYU emphasized that there will be no changes to the existing contract, which expires in 2018, and the medical center is exercising its right to bargain in good faith with the union instead of through an intermediary. The spokesperson said that NYU feels the hospital can create a better contract for employees through direct negotiations with 1199 instead of through the League of Voluntary Hospitals, which represents various institutions with varying interests.
“NYU Hospitals Center has a contract with our 1199 employees that has two years remaining, so we are unsure of what exactly the union hopes to achieve from this exercise,” the spokesperson said of the picket line. “There are no changes to any contract provisions including pay, benefits and working conditions.”