American labor unions arose out of the need for workers to organize themselves and work together to demand fair wages, safety in the workplace, and job security. A collective voice could not be ignored by employers as easily as individual protests, and workers who banded together could engage in strikes and other joint activities to strengthen their hand in bargaining with management. In the 1950s, hospital employees were not yet unionized, and labor laws that were being put into effect at the time did not apply to them. Early attempts to organize hospital workers focused mostly on skilled labor. In 1957, Local 1199 began to reach out to these workers. Hospital workers in the early 1950s were badly underpaid and were confronted with a management that regarded unionization as totally inappropriate for health care institutions.
Local 1199 first began as a pharmacists’ union, but it encouraged and supported diversity among its membership from the very beginning. It is not surprising, therefore, that the union reached out to the population of mostly Black and Hispanic hospital workers. Its first major success occurred in 1958, when it succeeded in organizing the employees of Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx in New York City. This success led to increased membership, and by 1963, membership had quadrupled. Racial diversity within Local 1199 naturally led it to become involved in the struggle for civil rights during the 1960s, and it subsequently became a political force that fought for equality and the improvement of living conditions in minority neighborhoods in New York City.
Unions use tactics like work slowdowns, pickets, or strikes to place pressure on management in order to negotiate a better package of benefits and/or wages for their members.
Summarize the main purpose of this flyer and explain why this message is targeted toward certain ethnic groups.
Research the 1909 strike by ladies’ garment workers. Compare and contrast this strike to the hospital workers’ strike in 1960. Use a T-chart or Venn diagram to organize your research.
Foreign Language/English as a Second Language: Use the side-by-side English and Spanish versions of this instruction flyer to learn new vocabulary and grammar structure.
Art: Create a picket sign that might be used during this strike.