For Immediate Release
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Council resolution aims to protect quality patient care, expand middle class, spur economic recovery
Resolution lays groundwork for biggest effort by local workers to form a union in 40 years
BALTIMORE — The Baltimore City Council unanimously approved a resolution Monday night endorsing free and fair union elections for all hospital and nursing home workers in every facility throughout the city. The resolution states that unionized health care workers are best able to protect quality patient care and work with employers toward shared goals, such as expanding training and education opportunities. Read the resolution
The city council resolution follows a conference attended by over 150 members of 1199SEIU last week. At the conference, members participated in strategic planning for their “Heart of Baltimore” campaign, a massive, unprecedented effort to win free and fair union elections for tens of thousands of workers. The resolution states “That this Body hereby calls upon Baltimore area healthcare institutions to support the expansion of our city’s middle class by fostering an economic recovery with shared prosperity for all Baltimoreans, providing family-sustaining jobs with advancement opportunities for healthcare workers, and ensuring access to quality patient care.”
“It is my honor to introduce this resolution on behalf of the hardworking healthcare workers who provide exceptional service and care to Baltimore residents,” said Baltimore City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “The healthcare workers on the frontline are the backbone of our city’s healthcare system and they deserve the right to have access and the opportunity to organize in free and fair elections.”
“Having a union allows me to really speak up for my patients and make sure they’re getting the best possible care,” said Pam Honeyghan, a patient care technician at Maryland General Hospital. “This resolution brings us one step closer to the day when every Baltimore caregiver can provide great care while providing for our families at the same time.”
The resolution goes on to state, “That the Baltimore City Council calls on all healthcare employers to agree to a Free & Fair union election code of conduct, so that workers can make their own decisions in a fair secret ballot vote.” In the past, local health care employers have hired high-priced anti-worker consultants and diverted patient care dollars into fear campaigns to silence caregivers. These anti-worker campaigns not only waste health care resources, they ultimately take the focus off patient care.
The resolution also points out that one in five Baltimore jobs are in health care, and so improving health care jobs will expand the city’s middle class, bolster the city’s economic health and help foster an economic recovery with shared prosperity. Currently, only about nine percent of Baltimore’s health care workers are union members, and many struggle to provide for their families on low wages with no affordable health care or opportunities to advance.
Caregivers across the city have been working in recent months to unite with 1199 SEIU/United Healthcare Workers East, the largest and fastest-growing health care union in the country.
“Health care workers are the heart of Baltimore, caring for the sick and the elderly every single day,” said John Reid, Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU. “But thousands of caregivers are struggling to make ends meet, and many can’t afford health care for their own families. If we’re going to maintain Baltimore’s world class medical facilities and rebuild the city’s middle class, we’ve got to win affordable health care, training opportunities and a living wage for every health care worker.”
Local health care workers have been energized by the revitalization of 1199SEIU in Baltimore. In 2005, members of the city’s SEIU chapter voted overwhelmingly to unite with 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East so they could have the resources and support to most effectively advocate for their patients, communities and families. Uniting with 1199 has also allowed local health care workers to engage civically in issues that matter to working people, such as protecting health care funding and expanding access to care. For example, 1199 members were a driving force behind expanding Medicaid for thousands of Marylanders and changed the poverty level so more D.C. residents have healthcare.
In addition, more than 2,000 new members have voted to join the union in the last two years, and 1199SEIU has established a training and upgrading fund with local hospitals that has helped more than 160 workers advance and improve their skills.
The Heart of Baltimore campaign is the biggest union effort among local health care workers since 1969, when Coretta Scott King came to the city to help thousands of impoverished workers form a union and win dramatic improvements.
1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East represents more than 340,000 health care workers throughout Maryland, Washington, D.C., New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey. It is the largest and fastest-growing health care union in America. In Maryland and D.C. alone, we represent over 8,000 health care workers in a wide range of job classifications throughout hospitals, nursing homes and homecare. Our mission is to achieve affordable, high quality health care for all.