More than 1,500 members of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the nation’s largest healthcare union, have voted overwhelmingly to ratify a contract with Connecticut-based Nuvance Health – including Putnam Hospital in Carmel – which members say will improve the lives of workers, their families and patients, and also help to recruit and retain staff.
The three-day ratification vote, which took place April 19, 20 and 21, was the culmination of more than a year of contentious negotiations, according to Mindy Berman, communications consultant with 1199SEIU.
With constant stalling on behalf of the employer and little progress being made, the healthcare workers were forced to hold several informational pickets, join with concerned elected officials and patients at press conferences, hold a car caravan to inform the public and contact board members, and demand dozens of meetings with management (away from the negotiating table), said Berman.
The bargaining units include a first union contract with bio-med engineers and radiation therapists at Putnam Hospital and Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, and with technical workers at Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck.
Contracts were also extended at Putnam Hospital and Vassar Brothers.
Among the contract highlights are 3.5 percent annual raises in 2023, 2024 and 2025; 10 percent minimum rate increases; making Juneteenth a premium holiday; allowing long-time members to continue their no-cost, comprehensive health benefits through the 1199 National Benefit Fund; and covering new members with the 1199 National Benefit Fund effective Dec. 1, 2024.
According to 1199SEIU, New York’s healthcare system is facing an unprecedented crisis: Three years since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in New York, patients and workers continue to face the pandemic’s aftershocks. Emergency rooms are overflowing, patients wait interminably for lab results, and healthcare workers are fed up and leaving the industry.
Berman said the new contract aims to recruit and retain workers and bring back the type of care Hudson Valley residents have enjoyed in decades past.
“After three years of being persistent and at the same time being patient, we have our contract,” said Daniel Duffy, a radiation therapist at Putnam Hospital. “I think, I hope, Nuvance may now see us as a valuable asset to their organization.”
Greg Speller, 1199SEIU executive vice president, said the union is happy that members prevailed and won important collective bargaining agreements that will benefit healthcare workers and patients.
“Special praise goes to the workers who fought hard for their first contracts – technical workers at Northern Dutchess Hospital, and staff in the biomedical and radiation therapy departments at Vassar and Putnam,” he said.
1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest healthcare union in America. It represents more than 450,000 nurses and caregivers throughout Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Florida.