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St. Mary’s workers rally for new contract
By Phil Corso

Despite the pouring rain, nurses and caregivers of the 1199SEIU union from St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Bayside took to the streets Wednesday to rally for better benefits, including health insurance and access to education.

The workers were picketing outside of St. Mary’s front entrance at 29-01 216th St. in yellow rain ponchos, unified as they chanted “Be fair to those who care” and “No contract, no peace.”

St. Mary’s Hospital did not return calls seeking comment.

According to the union workers, St. Mary’s Hospital had operating revenues of $93 million in 2010 and $4.3 million in profits. And while the rally continued in front of the hospital, large cranes and construction teams continued working on a major expansion project at the facility.

Lisa Leonard, a single parent from Flushing, has worked at St. Mary’s for eight years and her last raise was for 30 cents an hour in 2008, she said. She said she was pressing for more affordable health care because her current insurance was not cutting it.

“We love the children we care for. They’re like our own kids. After almost a year of trying to get executives to listen to our concerns, we’re out here as a last resort to make our voices to be heard,” Leonard said. “I make so little right now that I have my daughter on Child Health Plus.”

Elected officials also joined in on the rally, including Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside), state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece.

“The 1199 members at St. Mary’s deserve a fair contract, plain and simple,” Avella said. “Nurses and caregivers serve my district’s most severely ill children, and to deny them affordable health care for themselves and their own children or training that would allow them to better care for our young patients is outrageous.”

Contract negotiations have been ongoing, the workers said as they spoke out to demand a fairer agreement that provides the same health care coverage and benefits as tens of thousands of 1199SEIU members in hospitals and nursing homes throughout the city.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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