Thousands of workers at Hartford HealthCare will finally enjoy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid holiday in a powerful union victory for dignity and respect led by the members of District 1199, SEIU.
This important victory for all Hartford HealthCare workers to conclude this Black History Month was made possible by the united front and solidarity of Black, Brown, and White staff members at The Institute of Living (IOL) and Natchaug Hospital, and their determination to uphold racial and economic justice in the workplace.
“Dr. King’s holiday is the only holiday in our schedule celebrating the life of a Black hero and the continued struggle of Black people. It’s a shame it took decades for Hartford HealthCare to recognize Dr. King’s holiday, but by sticking together we’ve won some respect,” said John Connor, a psychiatric technician with over 40 years of experience at IOL. “Hartford HealthCare should stand up and honor what Dr. King stood for: to hope for and take action for a more just society.”
Hartford HealthCare has approximately 30,000 employees in Connecticut. Over 29,000 did not enjoy MLK Day as a paid holiday off in their yearly work schedule until Hartford HealthCare’s administration conceded to the demands of District 1199 members, who work as licensed practical nurses, psychiatric technicians, rehabilitation instructors, residential workers, housekeepers, dietary staff, drivers, mental health workers, dietitians and certified occupational therapy assistants. As a result of their union efforts of 1199’s bargaining unit of 300 workers at Hartford HealthCare, now all company-wide workers will have MLK Day as a paid holiday starting on Monday, January 17, 2022.
“This isn’t just another holiday to us. It’s special. Dr. King is like our union’s patron saint. He fought for peace, for racial justice and for economic justice for all. He said we were his favorite union and his wife marched with 1199. So, this was kind of personal for us,” said Sonia Brown-Wright, a psychiatric technician with some 20 years of service at IOL.
MLK Day was recognized as a federal holiday with President Ronald Regan’s signature in 1983 and was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986. With the addition of MLK Day the workers at Hartford HealthCare will now have seven paid holidays recognized on their schedule.
On February 10, District 1199 members at Natchaug Hospital and IOL delivered a petition to the President & CEO of Hartford HealthCare, Jeff Flaks, demanding respect for workers by honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s holiday. The petition was also mailed to members of the Board of Hartford HealthCare and on February 20 the administration conceded to add MLK Day as a paid holiday in a newsletter sent to all workers.
In addition to winning Dr. King’s paid holiday, union members prevailed in their demands to increase staffing numbers, and to establish a committee to work on protections from assaults against healthcare workers at Natchaug Hospital. The union fight continues in solidarity to persuade Hartford HealthCare that workers at the Institute of Living deserve the same reasonable protections on the job.
SEIU 1199NE, the New England Health Care Employees Union is Connecticut’s largest health care union. Representing over 26,000 workers, the union strives for social, racial and economic justice for union members and the broader community.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Pedro Zayas, email@example.com, 860-830-2478