Thousands of hospital workers across Greater Boston joined 1199 in 2009. Find out more about this city on the move!

A Victory for Hospital Workers! Click here to read about the contract that is making a difference in the lives of patients, healthcare workers and their families.


Hospital workers support public radio in order to educate our community about Free & Fair union elections.
Click to listen to our WBUR (90.9 FM) underwriting spot.

Free & Fair hits the airwaves!
Hear the radio ad.

Hear “Voice of the Red Sox” Joe Castiglione promote fair elections.

Listen to the WBCN ads that ran
during Superbowl 2008.


Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Confronts Union Supporters with Armed Security Officers

Contrary to BIDMC’s CEO’s stated commitment to transparency and openness, administration uses heavy handed tactic to end conversations about unionization


Boston, MA – Union supporters were confronted by armed security officers who ordered them to stop handing out union leaflets in the public cafeterias of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s two main cafeterias during lunchtime today.

“The absolutely over the top use of armed guards to intimidate workers from reading a leaflet about unionizing and having a conversation during lunchtime is offensive to anyone who believes in free speech and the rights of working people,” said 1199SEIU Executive Vice President Mike Fadel. “It’s ironic that this conduct is from BIDMC’s CEO Paul Levy, who has portrayed himself as someone who believes in openness and transparency. He should be ashamed.”

At about 11:45am, union supporters began peacefully distributing leaflets in the cafeterias of the BIDMC West and East campuses. Within minutes, security officers, including armed officers, descended on them in a show of force, in front of scores of shocked hospital workers. The guards confronted the union supporters, and ordered them to leave or face immediate arrest. And they said they would immediately arrest and jail any of the supporters who entered the hospital ever again. Photos taken in both cafeterias are attached. Additional images are available at

Levy’s actions conflict with the public image he has attempted to cultivate on his own blog, where he has argued that he does not need to sign a code of conduct agreement with any union pledging that he will not use intimidation and coercion, because he is already committed to open discourse among his employees. See attached fact sheet.

With endorsements from Mayor Thomas M. Menino and most Greater Boston Area city, state and federal elected officials and a unanimous Boston City Council resolution, healthcare workers are asking hospital CEOs to agree to an enforceable code of conduct. Under a free and fair union election code of conduct, caregivers would be free to make up their own minds about forming a union, free from management intimidation and coercion, under fair secret ballot voting conditions. A code of conduct is intended to preclude the use of intimidation tactics such as those used against workers today.

In past years BIDMC, a purportedly non profit institution, has spent patient care dollars on intimidation campaigns against their own staff when they have tried to form unions. Many Boston hospital workers are struggling to make ends meet on wages that don’t reward their years of labor, and thousands of workers can’t afford healthcare for themselves or their children. Said Fadel, “We have a vision of making our hospitals workplaces where caregivers have dignity and respect by joining together as a union. We want to make sure our patients get even better care.”

Click here for flyer

Fact Sheet:

BIDMC CEO Paul Levy’s actions conflict with the public image he has attempted to cultivate for himself on his own blog, where he has often argued that he does not need to sign a code of conduct agreement with any union pledging that he will not use intimidation and coercion tactics, because he is already deeply committed to open discourse among his employees.

The following are examples:

“At BIDMC, we surely support a free and fair [union] election.” (September 7, 2007)

“We believe in free elections in which each employee, unencumbered by peer pressure or other outside forces, gets to vote “yes” or “no” in the sanctity of a private voting place.” (August 25, 2006)

“On this blog and elsewhere, you have seen the utter transparency with which BIDMC conducts its business. This transparency is fully endorsed and encouraged by our governing bodies because they understand that we are ultimately accountable to the public and that we will do a better job for our community if we admit our mistakes and try to continually improve.” (November 3, 2007. Emphasis added).

“I expect to be judged by both my comments and my actions.” (July 7, 2007)


Cape Cod Times: Bolstered by robust union, Cape health care jobs coveted

Cynthia McCormick - September 1, 2008
(Click here to download pdf of the full article from the Cape Cod Times)

Tammy Lawler’s job as a medical secretary at Cape Cod Hospital has her old job as a hairdresser beat on several counts.

As a hospital employee, she gets health benefits, generous vacation time
and tuition money for classes or training in health-related fields.

“That’s what brought me to the hospital - the benefits and the wages,” said
Lawler, a Dennis resident and the mother of two sons.

She credits her ability to earn a living on Cape Cod not only to Cape Cod
Healthcare Inc., the parent company of Cape Cod and Falmouth hospitals,
but also to the hospital workers union.

The union has a long name - 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East - and it’s accomplished a major objective. “It gives me a voice,” said Lawler, a union delegate.


The Boston Globe: Working for youths

Adrian Walker - Friday, August 15, 2008 (Download the pdf of this article from The Boston Globe)

Labor unions may be a lot of things, but they are definitely not normally social service agencies. SEIU Local 1199 is poised to become an exception to that. This weekend, the union, in conjunction with the city’s Public Health Commission, will announce an antiviolence program aimed at teens and young adults in the city’s most violent neighborhoods.

Many of the members of Service Employees International Union Local 1199 work at Boston Medical Center, where they hold front-row seats on city violence. In many cases, they live in the city as well. Under the new program, youths from 14 neighborhoods will participate in workshops at the union’s Dorchester headquarters, making music, art, and videos. The product of the workshops will then form the basis for a multimedia campaign to urge young people to turn away from violence.

“It’s not just that they will be speaking to a key demographic,” said one union official. “It’s the creative element that we hope will make it unique.”

“Who knows how to talk to youth better than other youth?” asked Veronica Turner, a vice president of the local, which represents healthcare workers.”The idea of trying to send out positive messages to youth was not a tough sells for our members.”

The Public Health Commission has been busy for years trying to find ways to combat violence. Its efforts have included conductor door-to-door surveys to help residents connect with city services, as well as establishing peace councils in communities touched by violence. The search for new ideas couldn’t come too soon. While the level of homicides in the city is relatively stable, no one would suggest that the crime problem has gone away. The old solution if recruiting clergy to police the streets began losing effectiveness a long time ago. So new approaches are welcome.

SEIU 1199 has been involved in causes outside of labor negotiations for years, most notably as a voice in the fight for universal healthcare. But lobbying lawmakers is one thing. What it plans to do now is a lot more hands-on. The collaboration between the city and the union arose almost spontaneously. The Public Health Commission approached the union about some anti-violence programs it was planning. The issues struck a nerve with union members, Turner said, because so many had been touched, at least professionally, by crime in the city.

“That’s the easy piece, donating the money,” she said. More difficult will be keeping members involved in working with the hundreds of youths she hopes will eventually participate. The program will formally be announced Sunday at Franklin Park by Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the director of the Public Health Commission.

The notion that crime is a public health issue is almost cliche, and how effective the program will be is anyone’s guess. But given the way young people are bombarded with messages that glamorize violence, a counteroffensive sounds promising.

And frankly, any group willing to put up time and money in the battle against crime is to be commended. Often, it seems that concern about street violence is mostly limited to those directly affected by it. The members of Local 1199 who would like to stem violence before it presents itself in the emergency room at BMC are performing a public service. The so-called Boston Miracle of 1990s is debated to this day, right down to whether the crime drop of that era was ultimately driven by changes in demographics. But almost everyone agrees that it yielded one lasting lesson - that policing alone isn’t enough to make neighborhoods safe. It also takes community involvement.

The union is betting that young people, with the right support and guidance, have something meaningful to say to their peers, which sounds like a valid thesis. It won’t be the solution, but it just might be part of one.


The Boston Globe: Youth media campaign targets city violence

Effort to focus on their peers
James Vaznis - Monday, August 18, 2008

City youths armed with digital cameras and audio recorders will capture images and words and use them to try to persuade their peers to shun violence, under a new city program announced yesterday.

The youths will work on developing this new media campaign this fall and winter with city workers and members of SEIU Local 1199 United Healthcare Workers East, many of whom work at Boston Medical Center, treating victims of violence.

“Young people know how to speak to young people,” Veronica Turner, vice president of Local 1199, said at a media conference yesterday at a public health fair at Franklin Park in Dorchester.

Click here to download a pdf of the full article from The Boston Globe.


Boston Metro: Union backs mayor's anti-violence plan

Tony Lee - Monday, August 18, 2008  (Click here to download a pdf of the full article.)

Area youth will lead an anti-violence campaign tied to Mayor Thomas Menino’s Violence intervention Prevention (VIP) initiative, thanks in large part to a landmark donation from area health care workers.

The $200,000 pledge from 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East members at Boston Medocal Center will help the kids build a media campaign designed to promote nonviolence. The campaign will incorporate art, poetry and music to build safe problem-solving methods.

Kids will be recruited to take part and work on the campaign, due to hit the airwaves, newspapers and Internet in early 2009. Menino received the check yesterday at Franklin Park, near the four neighborhoods the VIP program serves by connecting residents to anti-violence services.

The VIP plan was unveiled last fall, around the time several Boston Police and city efforts began to pay off in reducing city crime. Thus far in 2008, the numbers are impressive.

Through Aug.10, crime in the city is nearly 15 percent this year compared to 2007 with drops in every category, including a 17.4 percent decline in homicides and a 35.7 percent fall in car thefts, according to the BPD. Each of the department’s 12 districts have cut crime by at least 8.2 percent.


Jewish Advocate: "Why I'm with the union"

Why I'm with the union

By Maydad Cohen - Wednesday May 28 2008 (Download the PDF of this article from the Jewish Advocate)

The May 16 Jewish Advocate featured on its cover a picture of members of the Jewish Labor Committee and Workmen’s Circle supporting 1199SEIU’s (Service Employees International Union) May 8 rally in support of hospital workers trying to organize a union at their hospital.

I was one of those photographed. The caption under the photo was “We’re sticking with the union.” I’m writing now to tell you why I am in support of the Union and these workers.

My parents always taught me to respect all workers. Our religion commands us to treat workers with dignity and respect. Our Jewish history tells us of immigrant Jews who helped shape the labor movement in the U.S. For these reasons I’ve dedicated my life to fighting for the rights of workers.

The campaign to support heath care workers in Boston is about dignity and respect for hospital workers, who toil daily as lab technicians, food service workers, or custodians. They play an integral role in making patients comfortable and in providing the great patient care we have all come to expect in Boston hospitals.

These very workers, however, often do not make enough money to support their families. Many of them cannot even afford to send their own family members to the very hospitals in which they are employed. How does treating workers in such a fashion demonstrate dignity and respect?

This campaign is also about seeking a fair election, free from coercion and intimidation from the hospitals. Studies have consistently shown that a majority of employees would, if given the opportunity, join a union. Not surprisingly, when employers are allowed to intimidate and spread fear or misinformation among workers, the workers’ ability to organize is considerably hindered.

After all, the hospitals have instant access to their employees and hold their livelihood in their hands. Many companies use this leverage to instill fear into workers and intimidate workers into voting against a union. In light of this practice, 1199SEIU is merely seeking a promise by the hospital for true neutrality.

For example, the union seeks an agreement with the hospitals which would allow workers to openly discuss the union drive and provide the union with equal access to the employees to discuss unionization. The fact that the hospitals have so far rejected such reasonable offers leads one to question their motives for doing so.

This is especially true in light of the fact that other Boston hospitals have agreed to similar terms. Let the workers decide for themselves whether they choose to be organized and represented by the union and let them choose free from employer coercion and intimidation.

As a member of the Jewish Labor Committee, therefore, I firmly support and stand with these hospital workers. These workers have my respect for the work they perform and the vital role they play in providing patient care.

They now deserve dignity at work, good wages, retirement benefits and the right to be represented by a union of their choosing. For all these reasons, and many more, I am happy to state that I’ll be sticking with the union for a long time to come.

Maydad Cohen is an attorney and member of the New England Jewish Labor Committee.


Hundreds rally for fair elections in Longwood with Dropkick Murphys

Hundreds of union and non-union hospital workers and their supporters rallied on Thursday, May 8 in the Longwood Medical Area of Boston for the free and fair union elections for all Boston hospital workers. Following previous heavily publicized endorsements from Mayor Thomas M. Menino, the Boston City Council, and Ben Affleck, hospital workers received another major boost at Thursday's event from national recording artists Dropkick Murphys, who performed at the rally to show their support. The Area Trades Council, the Greater Labor Council, IBEW 103 and other local unions joined the rally as well.

Historically, Boston hospital administrators have spent scarce patient care dollars on fear and intimidation campiagns against their own staff when they have tried to form unions in the past. Hospital workers and their supporters are now urging Massachusetts hospital employers to commit to a free and fair union election code of conduct, under which caregivers would be free to mkae up their own minds about forming a union, free from management intimidation and coercion, under fair secret ballot voting conditions.

  • View a slideshow below of photos from the day (Flash required):

Dropkick Murphys, one of Boston's most popular bands, whose songs are best known in Massachusetts as the soundtrack to the Boston Redsox World Series victory drives, played for caregivers from all area hospitals. Rallying under the slogan, "Be fair to those who care," Boston caregivers hope to join together with 1199SEIU to improve not only their own lives, but the quality of care for patients as well.


Hospital workers leaflet on Red Sox opening day

On April 8, hospital workers joined 1199SEIU members to distribute free scorecards outside a crowded Fenway Park on Red Sox opening day. The scorecards explained why Boston hospital workers are coming together for free and fair union elections, and were well-received by Sox fans.



Former BIDMC employee speaks out in Boston Herald and Boston Now

This ad ran on April 4, April 7, August 26 & 29, 2008 in the Boston Herald, on August 26 & 29, 2008 in the Boston Metro, and on April 8, 2008 in Boston Now .

“I am a former employee of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. During my job interview, I was asked if I had ever been in a union. The director explained BIDMC is a non-union hospital. He made it obvious then and most days after that he didn’t want employees who would think of joining together as a union. He told me BIDMC takes care of their own. Eventually,my co-workers and I got tired of being mistreated, and decided we needed a voice at work to improve our jobs and make the hospital a better place for patients.When our managers found out, they hit us with a campaign of intimidation and misinformation. They had private one-on-one meetings to tell us what would happen if we supported unionizing. They said if we voted to unionize they’d replace us with outside contractors. In my case,my director reminded me that my children wouldn’t have insurance if I lost my job.

“I was proud of my hospital — until they treated their own workers as enemies.”

I left the Beth Israel Deaconess, because no one needs to be treated like that. Now, I am happy to be a member of the Union at another hospital, where workers can count on being treated with dignity and respect. I’m no longer told that I’m a worker at will. It bothers me to know that my friends at BIDMC still don’t have the protection they deserve. I am working to make sure that what was done to me and my co-workers never happens again to any hospital worker. My experience is too common. That’s why Massachusetts hospital workers are calling for Free and Fair union elections. Hospital executives should agree to a code of conduct guaranteeing that workers will be Free to make up our own minds, in a Fair secret ballot vote. That way, management won’t treat hospital workers as enemies in our own hospitals. It’s a better way for our patients, and it’s the only decent way to treat people.”

- ANTHONY PATTI, Former Beth Israel Deaconess Employee

(Sponsored by 1199SEIU and the Area Trades Council)


Non-union hospital workers and 1199SEIU leaflet at Beth Israel Deaconess

On Thursday, February 28, non-union hospital workers joined 1199SEIU to leaflet in and around Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, talking to workers about Free and Fair union elections.