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Local 420 part-timers win full-time jobs

FULL-TIME ACTIVISTS: Local 420 President Carmen Charles (2nd from right) with board members, shop stewards and Service Aides (in blue) who won upgrades to full-time jobs at Kings County Hospital.

Thirteen part-time workers in NYC Hospital Employees Local 420 won upgrades to full-time Service Aide positions at Kings County Hospital Food and Nutrition Dept. in April.

For years many of these aides were assigned full-time schedules though hospital management classified them as part-timers. All were passed over for full-time employment opportunities, union leaders said.

The 13 crafted a petition exposing work conditions in the hospital’s dietary services operated by private contractor Sodexo.

“These members faced a miserable work environment that zapped their morale,” said Local 420 President Carmen Charles. “They learned their rights and came together. They were wonderful and willing to do whatever was needed to get their rightful upgrades, dignity and respect. They organized themselves to express their issues, concerns and needs, and their voices are heard.”

The petition detailed a laundry list of complaints and possible health and contract violations: Sodexo management used rusted equipment; treated workers differently; delayed upgrades to full time employment, and passed over them only to hire workers from outside full-time.

The Service Aides also accused Sodexo of implementing unilateral policies without negotiating with DC 37 and ignoring the citywide contract.

Charles met with hospital management and Sodexo regional managers and NYC H+H Human Resources and Labor Relations. NYC H+H was unresponsive until January, when its managers said the problem was with Sodexo, not Kings County Hospital.

The union learned that full-time jobs were posted briefly but NYC H+H hired people from outside to fill the posts. Full-time NYC H+H employees get full pension credit, annual and sick leave, and full union benefits that part-time employees don’t accrue at the same rate.

“Not one part-timer who signed the petition was upgraded to full-time employment,” explained Council Rep Sallie Stallings. “Management wasn’t blindsided by the issues the petition listed. The 13 members were completely overlooked and not offered full-time status. We saw this as an improper practice and possibly unfair retaliation.”

The union’s General Counsel and Research and Negotiations explored filing improper practice charges after learning a manager allegedly told workers, “You’ll know not to write a petition against me again.”

Charles threatened to put the giant union rat in front of Kings County Hospital.

For over a decade Charles lobbied Albany and City Hall to save pubic hospitals, winning “funding for all jobs—managers and our members too!,” she said.

“We confronted management and shamed them,” said Charles. “How could they treat so poorly people who work so hard, who are dedicated to this institution and to the patients? Are they good enough to be assigned full-time hours but not good enough to upgrade to full-time status?”

In April, Kings County conceded and upgraded the 13 Service Aides to full-time positions.