[Editors Note: This article appeared in the most recent edition of the TCWC Newsletter, The Workers Edge. To support the Ithaca Health Alliance in their spring fundraising drive through their Union, please go to http://ihaunion.peaksmaker.com]
By Valarie FitzRandolph in behalf of the Ithaca Health Alliance Workers’ Union: Rob Brown, Andrea Levine, Linda Knewstub and Abby Gilbert.
On a day in late November of 2014 the hourly paid staff of the Ithaca Health Alliance (IHA) voted unanimously to form a union. With the help of the Tompkins County Workers Center (TCWC) Workers Rights Hotline, we joined the Rochester Regional Joint Board, Worker’s United, SEIU. In early December of 2014 the Ithaca Health Alliance board of directors voluntarily recognized the union.
The hourly staff of the IHA decided to form a union because we believe this is the only way to gain a voice with the IHA board. The board has become increasingly isolated and closed to input from the community. We care deeply about the mission of the IHA, its special historical role as a truly democratic organization, and the people we serve and work with.
The union at IHA wants to ensure a voice for all stakeholders in the IHA including staff, volunteers, patients, donors and the community at large. It is our desire to have an open, inclusive agency that is responsive and responsible to stakeholders, where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. Our goal is to better serve our community.
Additionally the staff wants to address fundamental issues of fair treatment in the workplace including but not limited to job duties, job security, wages and benefits.
As a union we have a voice in the IHA and how it affects our lives, families and community. We want to offer resources and support the struggles of those impacted by systemic inequalities in health care, an economic injustice inseparable from the other struggles of workers. We seek to unite with and support other workers in Ithaca and Tompkins County.
Shortly after our union formed, collective bargaining sessions began, the start of our effort to obtain a contract. It is now early April and after 5 bargaining sessions the employees still do not have a contract. The union members worked many hours to develop what we view as a fair, reasonable and comprehensive proposal. We started out with hopefulness and guarded optimism but have become concerned about management’s rigidity in bargaining critical sections of the contract.
If you care about the Ithaca Health Alliance and the vital work it does in the community please stand with us in our unionization effort, to have a voice and obtain a fair contract. You can make a secure, online donation in honor of our union and IHA’s good work. Visit http://ihaunion.peaksmaker.com/ to contribute to IHA’s “30 Days to Spring for Health” Fundraiser.
If you would like to volunteer to help us get the IHA board of directors to respect our rights as a union please contact the TCWC. We want to thank TCWC for their ongoing support of and belief in our campaign.
About the Ithaca Health Alliance
Founded in 1997, our mission is to facilitate access to health care for all, with a focus on the needs of the uninsured. With the help of over 100 volunteers and only 4 paid staff (and 2 are part-time), the Ithaca Health Alliance has created a sustainable model of community-oriented, community-driven solutions to the ongoing healthcare crisis.