1199 SEIU Hospital Workers Picket Columbia University – Union-Represented Caregivers ‘Are Fighting For Affordable’ Health Benefits, ‘Fair’ Wage Increases & ‘The Recognition Of Juneteenth As A Paid’ Holiday
(NEW YORK CITY) - On Tuesday (July 19th), hundreds of 1199 Service Employees International Union (SEIU)-represented Caregivers joined with local and State lawmakers and the local community as they picketed in front of Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) to demand a fair contract from the university for its Medical Staff.
“Right now we’re very limited to a poor standard of (health care) benefits,” Columbia University Administrative Aide Melina Martinez said. “The insurance I have now, I’m paying too much out of pocket, going into debt, and because we’re a private institution, they put me into collections. It’s hundreds of dollars in co-pays, which I can’t cover, and they want to raise that cost. I can’t afford to pay any more of a deductible for family members, I’m a mother of four. It’s just a strain right now with everything that’s going on – it’s hurting my pocket and taking away from my children.”
The Workers, who are among the lowest-paid Employees at Columbia, have been negotiating with the university for months. They are fighting for affordable health benefits, fair wage increases and the recognition of Juneteenth as a paid holiday – and they want the same medical plan as a Cafeteria and Clerical Workers have had for years at Columbia’s 116th Street Campus, as well as tens of thousands of other Health Care Workers across New York City’s hospitals. The Columbia University Workers who picketed include Technical, Clerical, Library Workers, Dental Assistants, Field Researchers, and other essential Support Staff.
“I was essential the entire pandemic, I didn’t call out once. I was processing samples from people with lung disease all throughout COVID, I was one of three people that stayed in our lab. I got no hazard pay, no benefits, no raise. Columbia has done nothing to support us and now we’re being asked to pay for our own health care. It’s crazy,” Senior Technician Mason Amelotte, Sr. said.
Despite working on the front lines of the Coronavirus Pandemic - including supporting vital research into COVID-19 vaccines – the Workers are being told by Columbia University that they now need to pay more to keep their inferior health insurance.
As a prestigious university located in the heart of Harlem with a $14 billion endowment, the university is refusing to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday for all Staff - and is not negotiating a contract in good faith, the Workers charge.
Columbia already recognizes Juneteenth as a day off for faculty and students - but is not extending the same recognition to its low-wage, front line workforce, they said.
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