In Brief

Huge Victory in Fight for $15. NYS minimum wage hike on horizon for 2016

The New York Wage Board appointed by Governor Cuomo a few months back made history by recommending a $15/hr wage for fast-food workers. NYSNA has been an active participant in the labor community’s efforts to help lift the state’s 180,000 fast food workers out of poverty. Governor Cuomo is expected to sign it into law in mid-August. Until then, billion-dollar fast-food corporations like McDonald’s will try to stop its passage through legislative and legal maneuvers.

The work to lift all boats will continue with a legislative campaign to raise the state’s minimum wage across the board in next year’s session.

NYSNA members attended Governor Cuomo’s July 22 announcement of the Wage Board’s decision.

Future of public sector unions at risk

This fall the US Supreme Court will hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case challenging the ability of public sector unions to get a “fair share,” or agency fee, from all members who receive the benefits of representation. For the past 40 years the Supreme Court had upheld the right to agency shop, but this basic union tenet now is at risk.

As hundreds of members in attendance at NYSNA’s Public Sector Conference in May learned, if the court rules against the Teachers it will ultimately impact the way unions, public and private, across the country can speak for their members, defend collective bargaining rights and conduct lobbying for those rights. The legal challenge is just the latest salvo in the 1%’s attempts to use the courts to curb union power. The Koch brothers and the forces of unbridled corporate power are behind the challenge, which will be argued by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund.

Verizon’s union busting app

Contract talks between the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and Verizon haven’t been going well. CWA represents 38,000 Verizon workers who have authorized a strike if a new deal isn’t reached. In an antagonistic move, the company distributed an app to the 15,000 non-union replacements it has lined up and is providing training on how to use it to report “bad” behavior by union employees should a strike occur.

It was hard to distinguish the members of NYSNA from those of CWA at a July 25 rally to support the CWA’s Stand Up to Verizon contract campaign. NYSNA president Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, RN, addressed the rally.

A little rain didn’t stop NYSNA members from marching in the Staten Island Independence Day parade.

Chenango County Health Department RNs promote wellness

NYSNA members staffed the county’s first-ever “Innovative Readiness Training” (IRT) clinic, a 10-day health initiative to provide free check-ups for underserved communities and training opportunities for military veterans. Chenango County covers a 900 square mile rural area in the south, central portion of the state where many residents lack access to essential health services. “We’re very pleased to have the clinic here because so many community members just cannot afford health check-ups,” said Sandy Warner, RN, vice chair of NYSNA’s bargaining unit. Over its ten-day duration, the clinic expected to see 3,000 patients.

Sandy Warner, NYSNA RN with the Chenango County Department of Health, was among those who saw patients at the county’s recent outreach clinic.

Capital Region RNs keep up pressure for safe staffing

NYSNA members at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady and Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville gave their hospitals until the end of July to come to the table in good faith or face the possibility of a strike. Staffing remains the nurses bargaining priority, and like their fellow RNs in New York City, the Capital region nurses have had to use the threat of a strike in order to make movement on achieving safe staffing language in the contract renewals currently under negotiation.

North Country Salute to Labor

Kathy McCallister, RN at Champlain Valley Physicians Health (now University of Vermont Health Network), was honored at the June 18 North Country Salute to Labor for her advocacy for the rights of her fellow nurses and ensuring quality patient care for North Country residents.

Erie County Medical Center opens new center

A new Center for Occupational & Environmental Medicine (COEM) officially opened at ECMC on June 5. The western New York labor community played a major role in creating the center and in selecting ECMC as its host. It is the newest addition to the New York State Occupational Health Network Program and will serve a five-county region, focusing on prevention of work-related illnesses and injuries through increased awareness and health education, early diagnosis and treatment.

Brooks Memorial Hospital members overwhelmingly ratify agreement

NYSNA members at Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk ratified a contract that will keep experienced healthcare staff at the bedside. The three-year agreement meets members’ key demands of fair wage increases and preservation of earned paid-time off. The 160-member professional unit is comprised of RNs, medical technologists, nuclear imaging technologists and registered respiratory therapists.

NYSNA Members showed their support of Mayor DeBlasio’s affordable housing program at a July 13 press conference.

It’s never too late to become a nurse

NYSNA member Patricia Bleeker, RN at The University of Vermont Health Network, Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital, was recently profiled in the Press-Republican, the daily newspaper for Plattsburgh and Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties in the northeastern corner of New York State. Nurse Bleeker is still going strong at 80 years old, and “can’t imagine retiring just yet.” Even more incredible, she took up nursing as a second career at age 65 following decades of teaching elementary school. She works a full-time schedule as a mental health nurse five days a week. The profile is available online at

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