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Recruitment Flyer for the Hospital Union, Local 1199, in English and Spanish, ca. 1958

Hospital Workers Joining the Union by the Hundreds

Hospital Workers Joining the Union by the Hundreds

Kheel Center for Labor Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University, KHE_5510_B48F59-B-1-C_163
Document Description
Recruitment flyer for the Hospital Union, Local 1199, in English and Spanish, ca. 1958.
According to the document, how did organizing into a union help the workers at Montefiore Hospital?
What did Local 1199 want for its members?
Who supports the union?  Who does not?
What are workers being asked to do?
According to the document, Montefiore Hospital refused at first to meet with workers to discuss their demands.  What changed their position?
Historical Challenges
Using the resources below, find out more about Local 1199. Write and act out a skit about the struggle to organize hospital workers at Montefiore Hospital.
Research another strike in American history. Compare and contrast demands, methods, and results to the hospital workers’ strike.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Foreign Language/English as a Second Language: Use the bilingual aspect of this document to learn new vocabulary and grammar structure.
English Language Arts: Write a journal from the point of view of a striking hospital worker.
Resources, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, “About Us”, New York State Library. "Selected Hispanic and Latino Websites."
Ronald L. Filippelli. Labor in the U.S.A.: A History. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984.
Leon Fink and Brian Greenberg. Upheaval in the Quiet Zone (The Working Class in American History). Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989. ISBN 0-252-06047-4. Information on the early history of 1199.
Max Foner and Dan North. Not For Bread Alone: A Memoir. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002.
Robert H. Zieger and Gilbert J. Gall. 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 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.

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.