Public Employee Press
The organizing challenge
Local 1549 targets non-union HMO
President Eddie Rodriguez (r.) discusses benefits of the union at a Nov. 2 meeting
with MetroPlus workers. From left, Barbara Ingram-Edmonds, Jim Cullen and Renee
With the support of DC 37, Local 1549 is talkin
union with workers at MetroPlus Health Plan.
Ronnie Harris, director
of the Clerical-Administrative Division, noted that for more than two years, the
union has quietly laid the groundwork through workplace research and training
sessions in organizing for recruiting about 400 workers at the health-maintenance
organization at the Health and Hospitals Corp.
Known as Enrollment Sales
Representatives and Enrollment Sales Representative Assistants, the workers handle
enrollment applications of people who use the HMO of the citys public hospital
Local 1549 hosted a meeting at DC 37 headquarters on Nov. 2 to
hear the concerns of a group of the workers as the union prepared to shift the
organizing drive into full gear.
Local 1549 President Eddie Rodriquez greeted the
workers, who were joined that evening by the union reps and Local 1549 shops stewards
who are helping with the campaign.
Local 1549 2nd Vice President Ralph
Palladino, Assistant Director Renee Gainer of the Clerical-Administrative Division,
DC 37 Director of Field Operations Barbara Ingram-Edmonds and Jim Cullen from
the Albany office of DC 37s national union, AFSCME, were on hand to discuss
the nuts and bolts of the organizing effort.
Local 1549 is competing
with the Organization of Staff Analysts to represent the workers. As PEP went
to press, a date for the representation election hadnt yet been set, and
the union continued to dispute HHCs attempt to have no union
as one of the choices on the ballot.
We need a unionbadthere,
said a MetroPlus worker.
Workers complained about the high cost of medication
because they lack a decent drug plan. WithDC 37s prescription benefit, the
workers would be responsible for a relatively modest co-pay and therefore would
not face the hefty bills they pay now.
MetroPlus workers also dont
enjoy the disability, child care, tuition reimbursement, scholarships, reimbursement
of civil service fees, podiatry, education and legal benefits they would have
as Local 1549 members. They also arent covered by an economic agreement,
and they dont have contractual protections against disciplinary action.
no training, another MetroPlus worker said. And responsibilities are
being added to the plate.
Responding to the workers criticism
of their work circumstances, Palladino pointed out that Local 1549s working
conditions contract allows the union to press management to provide training and
Besides contractual protections, Ingram-Edmonds pointed out
that by joining the union, the workers would be able to take advantage of an affordable
housing program and immigration and counseling services.
a real union with a long history of protecting its members, said Gainer,
emphasizing thatDC 37 will react aggressively to address management abuses while
providing cover for frontline workers.