By Sabina Mollot
As Mount Sinai continues its downsizing of Beth Israel’s facilities in preparation for a new hospital to eventually open on Second Avenue, nurses and other employees within the union 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East have been bracing for possible cuts to their benefits.
On Thursday, July 12, union members picketed outside hospitals throughout the city that have employees from 1199SEIU, including Beth Israel on First Avenue and 16th Street and Mount Sinai Downtown in Union Square, formerly Beth Israel’s Phillips Ambulatory Care Center.
At each facility, over a dozen nurses and other union employees marched or stood outside while chanting and holding signs starting shortly before noon.
“Up with the union, down with the bosses!” and “union busting is disgusting” were a couple of the chants shouted from behind a barricade on First Avenue.
A nurse at the Union Square facility who’s worked for the hospital over a decade said she’s used to fighting in this manner every three years whenever the contract is about to expire. However, this time, she said things were different because it’s the first time administrators are planning to stop paying into employees’ pensions and also want them to start contributing to their health benefits, which she — and other employees — acknowledged were very good.
However, the nurse said base pay for nurses at Beth Israel is lower than pay at other hospitals within the Mount Sinai network, and she doesn’t believe employees will get the raise they’re hoping for to compensate for this.
“We’d rather have the benefits,” said the Union Square nurse, who asked to remain anonymous, “because benefits are expensive.” Another new development, said the nurse, was that employees these days “float” between different Mount Sinai facilities in the area, instead of being stationed at just the ambulatory building.