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PEP Nov 2016
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Public Employee Press


DC 37/AFSCME STRONG: ENGAGE & EDUCATE
Action teams ready for hospital campaign

BY ALFREDO ALVARADO


Local 299 member Virgil Rhames (kneeling) joins the petition campaign during lunch-time meeting at Harlem Hospital.

Addressing the inequity in funding for NYC Health + Hospitals is at the top of the list of priorities for District Council 37's Organizing Dept.

The department's campaign of lunch-time meetings to inform members of the planned restructuring at the nation's largest public hospital system began on Oct. 4 at Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn. Organizers are also meeting with members at Metropolitan Hospital in Manhattan, Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx and 10 other NYC H+H facilities.

No layoffs planned

The campaign aims to mobilize support among the members to urge Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign off on legislation that provides for a more equitable funding formula for the city's cash-strapped public hospitals. By 2019, NYC Health + Hospitals could be facing a budget deficit of $2 billion. In his executive budget for 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio added $700 million to help address the budget shortfall.

On Oct. 6, union organizers held a lunch-time meeting at Harlem Hospital, where members were given an update on the hospital restructuring plan by Senior Assistant Director Moira Dolan of the DC 37 Research and Negotiations Dept. Dolan assured the members gathered at the hospital's Martin Luther King auditorium that, despite the financial problems, no hospitals or clinics will be closed, nor would any employees be laid off. "There could be some redeployment, but there are no details yet," she explained.

The plan does call for making $50 million available for retraining, she added. Dolan also said that part of the plan is to reduce costs by decreasing the number of days patients stay in the hospital and focusing more on outpatient care.

The city's public hospital system employs 18,000 DC 37 members.

Ralph Palladino, 2nd vice president of Local 1549, which represents clerical staff at the hospitals, also attended the meeting. He shared with members the long history of activists in Harlem who have fought to keep the doors of Harlem Hospital open.

"If it wasn't for our union working together with the community, this hospital would have been turned into a luxury condo a long time ago," he said.

It was also at Harlem Hospital where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was treated after he was attacked with a knife during a book signing in Harlem in 1958.

At the meeting, organizers also recruited volunteers for the union's Member Action Teams. These activists serve as a liaison between the union and the members at their worksite. The MAT organizing drive began last March during the campaign for a new contract for employees at the City University of New York that held similar lunch-time meetings on CUNY campuses throughout the city. The MAT activists were instrumental in helping to get members to attend a rally outside Gov. Cuomo's Manhattan office to demand a new contract.

"I think it's a great idea," said Local 1549 member Sandra McPhee-Hunter, who has joined a Member Action Team.

 
Sign the petition!

The DC 37 website at www.dc37.net will direct you to the section on the change.org website, that has an online petition to urge Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign legislation to change the state's formula for allocating funds to public hospitals and safety-net hospitals.

"We urge you to take action to ensure adequate funding for our critical hospitals by signing the new Enhanced Safety Net Hospital bill (A. 9476-A/S. 6948-A) into law," the petition says.

"For the first time, this bill would provide a definition for our most vulnerable hospitals, allowing us to create the opportunity for increased federal matching funds and to prioritize state and federal aid to those of these hospitals that truly treat the largest number of uninsured patients and working families on Medicaid."

Thousands have already signed the petition. Signers are encouraged to publicize the petition through Facebook, Twitter and email.

 
 

Fair legislation needed

After listening to the various speakers, McPhee-Hunter decided to sign up for the upcoming activist training sessions offered by the Organizing Dept. Organizer Nicole Laing emphasized that members do not have to be shop stewards to join the team of activists.

MAT will help educate members about the hospital crisis and mobilize them to make sure the union's voice is heard in City Hall and Albany.

After the speakers were done, dozens of members stopped by the tables in the lobby to talk with organizers and sign the petition calling for Gov. Cuomo to support legislation that would create a new definition of safety net hospitals. The legislation would ensure that those hospitals who serve the neediest patients get their fair share of the funding.

DC 37, along with a coalition that includes CWA 1180, the New York State Nurses Association, the Doctors Council and many other organizations, has been campaigning for Cuomo to sign the safety net bill by the end of 2016.

To find out where the next lunch-time meeting will take place during November check the union's website at www.dc37.net. The next activist training session will be on Dec.1 at 6:00 p.m. at union headquarters in room 1. To reserve your spot in the class, call the Organizing Dept. at 212-815-1095.





















 
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