Saturday, May 7, 2011

Why 1199SEIU is worried

A recent letter writer to the Post-Standard suggested that Community General’s plans with Upstate University Hospital are somehow part of an “attack” on workers’ rights.

The writer said: “At a time when the rights of workers are under attack, it is important for people concerned with social justice to speak out when management and policy makers display insensitivity to process for the resolution of labor concerns. Such appears to be the case in the plans for the acquisition of Community General Hospital by Upstate Medical University.”

But the letter writer misunderstood what is happening at Community General. When Community becomes part of Upstate University Hospital, employees will continue to be represented by unions.

This is not a question of union vs. non-union. It is simply an issue of how Upstate structures its operations in a way that maximizes community benefit, fosters its mission, and preserves the most jobs for Community employees.

This week 1199SEIU held a rally in downtown Syracuse at which critical comments were made about Upstate for its approach in working to preserve the employment of Community workers. I would think that’s exactly what a union should be working for. But 1199SEIU cannot guarantee anyone's future without a job.

It is Upstate that offers Community workers continued jobs at the Community campus as part of the larger health care system.

To understand what’s behind 1199SEIU’s concerns, look at what’s happening.

In 2009 A.L. Lee Memorial Hospital (with over 200 employees) closed in nearby Fulton, NY. 1199 had a labor contract with Lee Memorial. The former hospital is now an urgent care center operated by Oswego Hospital.

This year Community General (with 1,100 employees) will become part of SUNY Upstate Medical University. 1199 represents about 800 of Community’s workers.

In our region at least two other hospitals with 1199 labor contracts also contemplating mergers with larger hospitals.

No wonder 1199SEIU is worried.

When I was asked about the rally and some of the statements made by 1199SEIU, I told reporter Jim Mulder: “As a business, 1199 is understandably worried about maintaining its client base.”

Jim's news report on the rally was published yesterday.

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