This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Davis, President of Retailing Drug Employees Union Local 1199, answers questions about a possible strike of 6 voluntary hospitals.
Jay Nelson Tuck moderates.
Panelists: Bernie Lufkowitz, Stan Siegel, Lillian Affan, Jim Farrell
Unionization in hospitals will create an atmosphere of harmonious labor relations if properly handled. Workers have a right to protest unfair working conditions. We are concerned with the patients, have asked NYC to move the patients to other hospitals if a strike does occur. Increase of Blue Cross rates. No disclosure of hospitals' financial information.
Tuck honors Jim Farrell's work on the series. It is his last broadcast as a panelist.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 72120
Municipal archives id: LT8398
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
Well unionization lead to strikes and voluntary hospitals who care for the patients if the workers strike relevant money count them for higher wages do muscularly suffer from unfair working conditions for the answers to these and other questions listen out to campus press conference every Sunday at this time editors of college newspapers question the news where the personalities are moderator on campus press conferences the noted newspaper men and editor Jane Olson talk now to introduce the panel and this evening's guest here is Mr Tuck Good evening it isn't often that a union threatens to strike in order to gain a contract which will forbid it to strike but this is happening now in our city the Onan is local eleven ninety nine of the retail drug employees and the employers concerned six voluntary hospitals our guest tonight on campus press conference is the president of the president of the Union Mr Leon J. Davis who has been active in labor work for almost all of his I don't life having worked for the unions since he left pharmacy college and having been its president for the last dozen years here tonight to question Mr Davis are Bernie Lefkowitz of the City College observer stance a goal of the N.Y.U. square Journal William are fond of the Hunter College Carol and Jim Pharrell of the Fordham student Bar Association stand has the first question for Mr Davis Mr DAVIS There's a question in some people's mind as to whether you know I've hospitals would be prone to strikes when unionization lead to strikes in the voluntary hospitals not necessarily as a matter of fact. Unionization in the hospitals we're creating an atmosphere of harmonious labor management relations if it is properly handled by management and by the union and that's the whole of our union. Bernie this is Dave still believe that work isn't crucial strategic industries should be permitted to strike under certain conditions yes I last a workers have provided and not a means of resolving their disputes with management peaceful means in this case in hospitals we feel that an arbitration machinery ought to be set up to resolve disputes between the management and labor at that a set up I think strikes should be and could be avoided. Jan Those are they're not avoided if the management grievance set up is not arranged for you Would you strike to coerce a collective bargaining arrangement Well I wouldn't permit coercion workers have a right to protest and fail working conditions and defend themselves against abuse of an employee and if there is no other avenue for them after all efforts to peacefully resolve their problems mediation arbitration which our union has offered in the management refuses workers have a right to defend themselves and even strike with the immediate question that arises in the mind of the average person in any town is what happens to the patients when you strike while they are very much concerned whether it can be a very much concerned with the patients way have asked the city of New York gotten those hospitals involved in this controversy if a strike should take place that the patients be moved out of the hospital so that nobody will the injured as a result of any strikes. We hope that is a responsible said city officials and the hospital administrations will Heep that request with the city closing hospitals are in private hospitals rather crowded at the moment how can you presume to. Create a crisis which would I imagine match a flood or hurricane crisis if you're a close a hospital and insist upon transfer patients to another hospital while you're assuming that the union is creating this crisis the crisis can only be created and will be created by the refusal of management to meet their requests of the workers to collective bargaining and further more than they are has proposed a peaceful solution to this problem the mayor of the city of New York I was Wagner has proposed to a designate a panel of public minded citizens to review the entire controversy and to make recommendations to both sides the union has accepted that they have proposed one hospital management so far has not indicated it's accept however a hospital management is not going to the listen to the workers not to the union not to them they are not to the general public opinion obviously they would be the ones that would be creating the crisis that you are talking about and that the workers are dealing. With the Davis I understand it the provisions that you're presenting to the private hospitals. Make a provision against striking and the contract what sort of collective bargaining would you have arranged in the price of a strike while the current proposal as that hospital and the union engage and I was collective body and if there are issues that cannot be resolved between the two parties peacefully. That instead of striking that it is a method to a board of arbitration designated by the NY of the city of New York was a man a public official and on both sides of it willing to abide by their decision and thereby avoid strikes now or in the future today which we talked a lot about strikes but not so much about what cause. In this case recognition and working conditions well you tell us a little about working conditions are aligned and very glad that your latest question because this is actually the basic issue the reason that these workers have been thousands of them have joined the union a matter of fact some ten thousand in the past three months and the cost of the terrible why can conditions and is voluntary hostile and unfortunately the public is now the quiet that with these conditions because the public usually pays a very good price and they do go into into these hostile attitude rights of a high and the public assumes that the workers get failed they'd be treated as a matter of fact wages in these hospitals are the lowest of any group of workers in the entire country after the workers for example non-science what six days a week get as low as thirty two dollars Bronx hospital as long as one hundred dollars a month which is some twenty three thousand and cents a week not one half of. Workers get thirty two hours a week for forty hours and they're just down the line at these conditions and more than that the abuse the lack of respect that workers receive no with this mission area work you can have a grievance at just that these workers are actually defenseless against and then it's meant that they're shown complete disregard for the welfare of the people who actually run the hospital I think you must understand that the hospitals are not run strictly by doctors and nurses they are the people who have to do the cooking the cleaning and the taking care of the patients and the lab workers and the office workers and the pharmacists all of these people neck and neck a part of the hospital every part in part of the hospital and these people are completely ignored for example a pharmacist in the hospital gets seventy or seventy five dollars we accept a college degree in the coming licensed in the union store in our union the pharmacy is the minimum he starts with one hundred twenty dollars a week that's a difference of forty five dollars no wage for a professional Question one Why can the hospital and one working in a drugstore Mr Davis why is it the hospital patients pay so much or seem to go and there's so little left over for the hospital employees where does the money go well that's a very difficult question to answer and I don't presume to know the complete answer. The hospitals claim however to be better than that they have many what patients do not pay off the city pays for them and incidentally the city has agreed to increase their rates for the hospitals as a result of the now the way the cities with the hospitals more for patients are needed here too so the hostels are going to get more money I understand their hospitals and they can get a name that's Blue Cross increase their legs. Well that may be justified too it may be justified only if heartless would agree to collect the binaural deal with their employees so we would know that at least a substantial part of that money goes to the welfare of the workers on the other hand also dollars people claim that hospitals are hardly mismanaged I'm not acknowledged but I'm back but that may be an area of this view in any event we wanted I get these things out of management we have been trying to get a debate going get our revenue on television where they have they have been able to get an advisory from the hospitals to be without question so I am in turn fortunate position of defending our case as well as that I'm sure I'm not doing such a great job by that. Very busy day this with the cost of living on operationally years and the power of unions growing greater why has really this union pressed for other Treasury machinery in recent times well we have been the organized infection of hospitals only for a few months after workers have not been organized in this area although hospital units have been neck systems from the West Coast not areas of the country these people have been completely forgotten unions have not organized them as a matter of fact and that covered by any social legislation as you know these workers are not covered by environment insurance if they should leave their job they're not covered by disability benefits then I care about any labor legislation these are actually to forgotten people in the city and these are the people that are responsible for the slums and for many other bad things about the city of New York. It's these thirty and thirty two dollars families that they have to exist in these wages that create I think a blight on the city Jim Well sir as Mr Tucker's already touched on the hospital wages as you cited them to be thirty and thirty two dollars a week are not commensurate with the way the rate paid by patients in the private hospitals namely twenty six dollars for private room which is highly which has been highlighted by the recent demand which you also cited for blue cross bridges do you advocate since you cannot tell at the present time what happens to this money do you advocate a lot requiring private hospitals to disclose an exact expenditure report on all income and expenditure and they have proposed that fact finding committee to deal with wages hours and doing a recognition such a fact finding committee obviously would have to get information from the hospitals what is their financial set I hope that when they come for a great increase will cross that they will have to disclose their financial positions and so far. It is very difficult to get a public accounting of their money but you advocate as a general rule the practice which is now being imposed on many labor unions hours advocated to be imposed from any way be an issue congressional legislation that private hospitals in the state of New York or state legislation be forced to make public their entire financial situation I would certainly welcome that. Kind of legislation although I don't know what that was out the problem for the White House. Oh yes yes with reference to this increasing rate of Blue Cross I wonder if you could give us some more detail information. Well. Then I can tell you is that they have received an increase in rates Blue Cross has received an increase in rates just for their part of last year they haven't received all the requested David question increase of forty percent I think they got an increase of some eighteen percent they are now requesting an additional increase of forty percent that's going to affect millions of families in the city of New York I don't know to what extent those increases act justified one of the reasons that I don't know is because they are no disclosures the what many of the hospitals get their financial position of the hospitals although the hospitals and they go around saying that they have no money and they are charity institutions yet when patients do go in there. When patients in the you go in there with some money usually come out with very little or not and otherwise their rates in hospitals are very high and local hospital for one day stay in a Brooklyn hospital they have a flat rate is twenty nine dollars one hundred percent of people say it's cheaper to buy water for a story. They don't provide they're back to service. Still and Mr Davis your cut your unit has a contract with my mom of the hospital a lot of fury hospital present time have any benefits come out of those contracts yet we have just recently settled their two contracts with two very prominent hospitals. Just mentioned Montefiore in my mind at least and we've got a very modest increase to start with the federal dollars a month spread over two years they also got some welfare benefits they got a grievance machine in the IT GOT arbitration machinery we don't expect that their conditions of these hospital workers are going to be changed overnight what we hope to is gradually improving and this sort of these weapons will gain a wage that they can provide their families with Jan but also you decided that you are you have the necessary majority for the great American custom of certification of the Union by way of obtaining recognition however you're exempt from the controls of the state Labor Relations Board and you are in intrastate commerce would you again this is another legislation question Would you advocate a law placing a requirement of majority certification under the state Labor Relations Board for voluntary hospitals Yes As a matter of fact some. Such legislation has been introduced in the last session and often and unfortunately it never got out of committee but it certainly would favor that these workers be provided with the rights of organizations like elections and what I collect are far. And incidentally this has been supported publicly by and they are crimes in your coast many other newspapers. Instead I think it's important to note got a public opinion is expressed so the vast majority of newspapers in this city have supported the position of these workers now union and and in this regard and the God of the rights of these workers to collective bargaining and appropriate legislation to protect themselves then what Sir do you ascribe to its being kept in committee Well the influences that the hospitals have. Evidently is greater than the influences that these workers so perhaps as far as legislation is concerned are organized workers. And these are named and organized so far. You're not prevail edged lately as you know they're not they haven't got the. The kind of political power that we call it that would make it possible for them to pass such legislation on the other hand the board of trustees of the greatest hospitals very well situated and very influential to doing so this center is an indictment against a Republican controlled legislature I would