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Strike Call, Hospital Workers, May 7, 1959

STRIKE CALL Hospital Workers Strike Friday Morning at Six A.M.
Kheel Center for Labor Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University, KHE_5510_B47F1_030
Document Description
Flyer from Local 1199 calling New York City hospital workers to strike at 6:00 a.m. the following day, in English and Spanish, ca. 1959
Why would it be important for Local 1199 to include both an English and a Spanish editorial on this flyer?
What is the management’s view of the strike? Why?
Who is supportive of the workers according to this flyer?
What newspapers are in support of the workers? How would we know a newspaper’s position on an issue?
What does it mean when they ask other doctors and nurses not directly involved in this strike to “respect our picket lines”?
Historical Challenges
Film or tape-record oral histories of people who have been members of labor unions during their lifetime. What do they feel their union has done to help them? How diverse is the membership of their union?
What is fact-finding? Explain its role in union negotiations.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Foreign Language: Translate the editorial from the flyer.
Art: Create a sign to be used at the rally on Friday morning.
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. 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.