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“Hospital Strike Won!” Flyer, Local 1199, New York City, 1959

"Hospital Strike Won! Union Campaign Expands to All Hospitals" proclaims Local 1199 poster
Kheel Center for Labor Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University, KHE_5510_B47F1_031
Document Description
Flyer from Local 1199 announcing successful hospital workers' strike, in English and Spanish, ca. 1959
What did the union win for its workers through this strike?
How many hospitals were involved in the settlement?
What does the union want since they were so successful?
Which hospital workers are included in this union?
What is the purpose of the “clip and mail today” section of the flyer?
Why do you think part of the flyer is in Spanish?
Historical Challenges
In history, progress for specific groups is often difficult because it must be balanced with the needs of others. Research and debate this topic: “Resolved, hospital employees have the right to stage labor walkouts or strikes in order to achieve better pay and working conditions.”
Research another union that was successful following a strike of its workers. Write a newspaper article describing the issues from the point of view of management and workers, people involved, and the settlement.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Science: How would a labor strike affect the quality of care for hospital patients?
Foreign Language: Translate into English the part of the document that is in Spanish.
Resources Bread and Roses Cultural Project, “About 1199/SEIU”
Filippelli, Ronald L. 1984. Labor in the USA: A History. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984.
Fink, Leon, and Brian Greenberg. 1989. Upheaval in the Quiet Zone: A History of Hospital Workers’ Union Local 1199. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1989.
Foner, Moe, and Dan North. 2002. Not for Bread Alone: A Memoir. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002. New York State Library. "Selected Hispanic and Latino Websites."
Zieger, Robert H., and Gilbert J. Gall. 2002. American Workers, American Unions: The Twentieth Century. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.

Historical Context
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 coming 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.

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. The union’s first major success occurred in 1958, when it succeeded in organizing the employees of Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx section of New York City.   This success led to increased membership, and by 1963, the union had quadrupled its membership. 

Essential Question
How do immigrants impact the economy and culture of a community?
Check for Understanding
Summarize the main purpose of this flyer and explain why this message is targeted toward certain ethnic groups.