East Harlem’s North General Hospital began shutting down last week, after declaring bankruptcy, a result of mounting debt. As a result of the closure, over 1,000 workers — 900 of them SEIU 1199 members — are now unemployed. While a new clinic will open in place of the hospital, there are serious concerns about the hiring and labor practices of this new employer.
On Friday, Melissa joined former North General staff, in protesting the Institute for Family Health, which is operating the new clinic. The Institute has hired only a limited number of the North General employees, instead opting for many new, non-unionized workers. For some of those that have been hired back, the Institute has asked them to switch labor unions, an illegal practice, which has prompted SEIU 1199 to initiate legal action against this employer.
“The new clinic at North General Hospital is starting off on the wrong foot with its workers and the larger community,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “It is simply unacceptable that the clinic is engaging in unfair workplace practices and has hired so few of the former unionized hospital staff. The former employees of North General have already gone through enough with the closing of the hospital. The maximum number of these workers possible should be retained at the new clinic and should not under any circumstances be asked by management to switch labor unions.”