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Operation Humanity: The Hospital Workers Need Your Support, 1959

Poster - Operation Humanity: The Hospital Strikers Need Your Support
Kheel Center for Labor Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University, KHE_5510_B47F3_033
Document Description
Poster from Local 1199 calling for public support of a hospital workers' strike, 1959
What percentage of Negroes and Latin Americans work as non-professionals in the 81 voluntary hospitals of New York City?
What are the reasons they are striking?
When and where are they marching?
How is the union making it easier for marchers to participate?
Which union represents the striking workers?
Why do you think the Hospital Association is against the union?
Why do you think this poster is titled “Operation Humanity”?
Historical Challenges
Learn more about the AFL-CIO and Local 1199 using the resources listed below. Decide how important it is for employees to have the right to join a union for collective bargaining purposes. Stage a recreation of a bargaining session between management and labor. What would be the goals of each side? How would they resolve their differences?
Interdisciplinary Connections
English Language Arts: Research and write a biography of one of the supporters of the strike listed on the poster.
Math: Convert the 1959 wages to those of today using an inflation calculator found on the Web. Find out wages of non-professionals in hospitals today and compare the wages.
Resources AFL-CIO, “100 Years of Struggle.” 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. Racial diversity among the membership of 1199 naturally led the union to become involved in the struggle for civil rights during the 1960s.

When the much larger Teamsters Union was expelled from the AFL-CIO in 1957, the organization invaded the jurisdictions of smaller unions such as Local 1199 in order to expand its own 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.