The holidays have been a whirlwind for Interfaith Medical Center employees. On December 20th Interfaith officials announced that the hospital will close, after a failed closed door mediation with Interfaith’s unions (New York State Nurses Association and SEIU 1199), creditors and management. Three days later, Interfaith officials released another statement indicating that the hospital received a three month reprieve from the the New York State Department of Health. The hospital will remain open at least until March 7th. This news comes after months of reprieves, an injunction, and other delays. The fate of Interfaith Medical Center, and the 1,544 employees that work there, has been unclear since August, when the workers received layoff notices.
This disempowering news is characteristic of the behind-the-scenes struggles NYSNA and 1199 have been waging. Similarly to Interfaith, Long Island College Hospital (LICH) received news on December 17th that its operators, State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate, will no longer seek developers to tear down the hospital. This apparently means that SUNY will continue to operate the hospital indefinitely, despite losing an estimated $13 million per month. Employees and patients at both LICH and Interfaith have been holding on by a thread for months, waiting for news from the unions. Meanwhile, the unions have undemocratically engaged in back room negotiations, and paraded out workers only when it served the union’s agenda. The LICH and Interfaith campaigns are clearly not about building worker power but ensuring Bill de Blasio’s election and the unions’ position as the workers’ “official leadership.”
The Interfaith reprieve is one more reason that workers should struggle outside the unions, forming workplace committees and cross-workplace organizations. We cannot rely on the unions, or anyone else for that matter, to struggle for us. To all those who are sick of waiting to find out if they will have a job or medical care next month, and to all those who want an end to the unions’ closed door dealings, Florence Johnston Collective supports you. Let us struggle together.