Registered nurses and other health care workers from Fresenius Medical Care dialysis clinics in New York City formed an informational picket line on Jan. 15 at eight of the provider’s facilities. Nurses of the New York State Nurses Association and Healthcare Workers of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East picketed and handed out flyers in front of the dialysis clinics. The unions are currently negotiating contracts covering 13 Fresenius Medical Care clinics in the NYC area.
In Brooklyn, picketers were joined by Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, D-NY, 7th District, and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who expressed their support.
A representative from the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) told NN&I that Fresenius is seeking to move union members to a more expensive health care plan and switch from a pension to a 401K. The proposed health care plan has higher premiums and copays, the union spokesperson said, and the 401K will have minimal company contributions.
“We are committed to providing access to life sustaining dialysis services in neighborhoods throughout New York, which include those that are traditionally underserved by the health care system,” said Jonathan Stone, a Fresenius Medical Care North America spokesperson. “We invest heavily in staffing, maintaining and improving these dialysis facilities and we are recognized for being one of the best places to work in health care. We always negotiate in good faith with all labor unions and continue to work diligently to achieve a contract settlement with the labor unions that represent our employees in the New York City area.”
The NYSNA spokesperson said that they would like to send the message that health care is a human right, not just for patients but also for employees. The unions are not on strike.
“Fresenius wants to squeeze profits out of its employees by switching us to a more expensive health plan with inferior coverage,” said Kelvin Peña, equipment technician at Nephrocare Inc., a Fresenius holding Fresenius is a multi-billion dollar global company with more than enough resources to make sure its staff has the coverage to remain healthy. We can’t allow companies like Fresenius to short-change workers locally to make profits globally.”
The Unions coordinated the pickets to be held on the weekend of Martin Luther King Day. “If Martin Luther King were alive today he would be pointing at inequality in health care” said Teresa Schloth, RN, a Fresenius nurse. “Dialysis clinics, especially those serving minority communities, should be committed to delivering quality care to our patients. That requires experienced nurses and healthcare workers. Yet the givebacks proposed by Fresenius would undercut the workforce, and the patients and communities we serve.”