Ithaca Health Alliance Workers Organize a Union!!

[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]

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.

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Workers’ Center Certifies Three New Employers as Living Wage

(Ithaca) The Tompkins County Workers’ Center is pleased to announce that we now have certified 96 employers as being Living Wage Employers, having just recently added the latest three such employers:

The Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes; Cinemapolis Theater; and Tompkins County Recycling, LLC, employ a total of 31 workers; this brings the total of workers, countywide and regionally, who are working for Living Wage Employers up to over 2,988 people.  LWE

Says Brett Bossard, Executive Director of Cinemapolis: “As a community institution, the board and I agreed that it was important that Cinemapolis’ values of equality and access to the arts for all be reflected in the way we treated our employees. The staff at the cinema provides a much needed and valued community service, and they should be compensated fairly for their labor.”

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What’s Good Ithaca and Tompkins County Workers Rights Hotline

We are blessed in Tompkins County to have a new website, What’s Good Ithaca, that is doing a great job of highlighting people, businesses, and projects working towards positive change locally. In the most recent edition of What’s Good Ithaca, our Tompkins County Workers’ Center’s (TCWC) Workers Rights Hotline is featured. Please do click on this link to check it out what we feel at the TCWC is one of the best representations we’ve seen yet of what our Hotline accomplishes! (Pictures are taken from our TCWC Community Celebration of 2014 Victories several weeks ago).

After you have checked out What’s Good Ithaca, please then consider making either a one-time donation to keep the Hotline alive and growing; OR consider becoming a Monthly Sustainer of our work. Knowing that we have a steady stream of resources coming in to fund our work is invaluable to help free us up to DO the work!

Workers’ Center Certifies Three New Employers as Living Wage, Bringing Total Up to 93

(Ithaca) The Tompkins County Workers’ Center is pleased to announce that we now have certified 93 employers as being Living Wage Employers, having just recently added the latest three such employers:

Viridius Properties, the Town of Caroline, and Schlather, Stumbar, Parks, and Salk employ a total of 27 workers; this brings the total of workers, countywide and regionally, who are working for Living Wage Employers up to over 2,957 people.

Says Don Barber, Supervisor for the Town of Caroline: “I am pleased to have the two organizations where I have had leadership roles, Sunny Brook Builders and now the Town of Caroline, recognized as Living Wage Employers.  Pulling this off, in the municipal property tax environment combined with the austerity seeking neo-liberal political environment in Washington and Albany, was no small feat.  I am pleased to be joined by a Town Board that recognizes government’s role is to serve the people.  Paying and encouraging all employers to pay a living wage is honorable service.”
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It’s Official: NYS Dept of Labor Increases Wages of ‘Tipped Workers’ to $7.50!

(ITHACA) The New York State Department of Labor’s (DOL) Acting Commissioner, Mario Musolino, today announced that the wages for all ‘tipped workers’ in New York State will be increased to $7.50/hour as of 12/31/15.
Says Erin Leidy, a pizza delivery driver in Ithaca and member of TCWC: “It’s just good economic sense to put money into the hands of the people who are working hard and will be spending it all over their communities to get the goods and services they need. There are few other single acts that would positively affect so many constituents and by extension the economy of the entire state.”
The TCWC turned out in force at the October 4th, 2014 State Wage Board Hearing in Syracuse, providing testimony from a number of tipped workers, as well as supportive community members who frequent restaurants in Tompkins County. In addition, the TCWC helped to motivate close to 200 letters in response to the DOL’s call for Public Comment that ended on 2/20/15 encouraging the Acting Commissioner Musolino to accept the Recommendations of the Wage Board.

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PLEASE ACT NOW on Behalf of ‘Tipped Workers’ in New York!!

All workers in the State of New York should make a Living Wage. Everyone. The restaurant industry, however, has historically been given a special dispensation that allows it to pay a sub-minimum wage. Now the New York State Hospitality Wage Board has made its recommendations which are a step in the right direction, including increasing all ‘tipped workers’ to $7.50/hour. This is a 50% increase in the tipped wage. This increase is so important because waitstaff in New York currently earn less than half the median wage for all workers; far less than a Living Wage. The Governor and the Commissioner of the Department of Labor need to hear from you by February 20th! The restaurant industry is mobilizing to quash this important increase. That’s why this Action Alert is so important.


Thursday, February 12, 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.: Tompkins County Workers’ Center Community Celebration

The Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC) will hold a Community Celebration on Thursday, February 12th, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Workers’ Center (115 The Commons/E. Martin Luther King Jr. Street in Ithaca) where free pizza, beer, and wine will be served. The entire community is invited! The purpose of the celebration is to celebrate our victories in 2014, including:

  • our collective victory, starring Milton Webb and Stanley McPherson; the Tompkins County Workers’ Center and its supporters; along with the important work of the County Legislature and County government to ensure that workers at the Casella Solid Waste Recycling facility are all paid a Living Wage (beginning on 2/3/15). This is part of the larger victory as related to the County Living Wage Contingency Fund which saw workers at Foodnet’s Meals on Wheels; Suicide Prevention Hotline; and Tompkins Literacy Partners all being newly-guaranteed a Living Wage as a result of a County contract;
  • assisting in the organization of a union, through our Workers Rights Hotline, at the Ithaca Health Alliance, which decided to ‘voluntarily recognize’ the unanimous non-managerial worker desire to organize. Our Hotline handles approximately 300 cases a year, which is quite high given the size of our community;
  • educating the larger community, based on a case that came through our Worker’s Rights Hotline as to the prevalence of abuse of laws around ‘salaried/exempt’ workers is in our community and society (as of 12/31/14, a worker living in New York cannot be considered ‘salaried/exempt’ if making under $656.25/week.) Many employers misclassify workers as salaried/exempt as a way to avoid paying overtime;

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Tompkins County Workers’ Center Certifies Five New Employers as Living Wage Bringing Total Up to 90

The Tompkins County Workers’ Center is pleased to announce that we now have certified 90 employers as being Living Wage Employers, having just recently added the latest five such employers:

• Sunny Days of Ithaca, 123 S. Cayuga Street, Ithaca;
• Court Street Chiropractic of Ithaca, 122 W.Court Street, Ithaca;
• St. Paul’s United Methodist Church and St. Paul’s Nursery School, 402 N. Aurora Street, Ithaca;
• Trumansburg Community Nursery School, P.O. Box 18, Trumansburg; and,
• Weaver Wind Energy, 233 Cherry Street, Ithaca.

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It’s Official! Tompkins Recycling Workers to Be Paid a Living Wage!

Since 2003, when the-then Tompkins County Living Wage Coalition (now the Tompkins County Workers’ Center/TCWC) worked with the Tompkins County Legislature to pass a Living Wage Resolution, the following things have happened:

  • in 2006, the County became one of our first Certified Living Wage Employers (the TCWC was the first organization nationally to start a Living Wage Employer Certification program). The County was by far our largest Certified Employer at the time (and continues to this day) with over 750 employees;
  • in October 2012, Milton Webb and Stanley McPherson, both workers at the-then ReCommunity Recycling (now operated by Casella Waste Systems) approached the TCWC wondering why, if they were working doing the business of the County, that they weren’t being paid a Living Wage (at the time, they were making $8.00/hour). We at the TCWC explained to them that we could mount a campaign to ensure that all County-contracted workers would be paid a Living Wage, but that we would need them as workers to truly make such a campaign a success;

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New York State Minimum Wage Increases from $8.00/Hour to $8.75/Hour on 12/31/14

On December 31, 2014, the New York State minimum wage will increase from $8.00/hour to $8.75/hour. The minimum wage will then increase again on 12/31/15 to $9.00/hour in New York. Click on this link to go to the NYS Department of Labor website.

The Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) estimates that 7.3% of the Tompkins County population (or 3,800 people) will be directly affected by this increase. On a statewide level, the FPI estimates that 10.1% of the population (or 880,00o) will be directly affected by the increase.

If you are a worker who doesn’t see your wage increase on December 31, 2014, please contact the Tompkins County Workers’ Center Workers Rights Hotline at 607-269-0409 and we will help you to rectify the situation!

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