June 21, 2013

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UUP wins battle in fight to save jobs, services at SUNY Downstate

uupdate 6-21-13

A key part of a restructuring plan for SUNY Downstate Medical Center that would have cut thousands of jobs and gutted health care services has been dropped, resulting in a major victory in UUP’s effort to save the state-run medical center.

But UUP leaders cautioned that the fight to save union jobs and vital health care services at the Brooklyn hospital is far from over.

Legislators failed to support the formation of a proposed corporation that would co-operate SUNY Downstate during their June 20 session. The Corporation would have been used to create an integrated network of Brooklyn area hospitals that would share personnel and health care services—allowing SUNY to drastically reduce staff and services at Downstate and the University Hospital of Brooklyn.

The corporation was a major component of SUNY’s so-called “sustainability plan” for Downstate, which had the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The corporation couldn’t be formed without legislative consent.

“Thanks to the hard work of the SUNY Downstate Coalition of Faith, Labor and Community Leaders, our allies at NYSUT, AFT and our sister unions, the draconian proposal for SUNY Downstate was not approved by the Legislature,” said UUP President Fred Kowal. “We won the battle but we haven’t won the war. This is an ongoing struggle that will demand our vigilance.”

Rowena Blackman-Stroud, UUP’s statewide treasurer and Downstate Chapter president, said that UUP will continue its fight to keep SUNY Downstate a state-run, public hospital.

"This was a big win for us," she said. “This victory has energized our base of support in Brooklyn.”

Once formed, the corporation could have co-operated and privatized SUNY Downstate—which could have led to for-profit operation of the medical center. The legislation would have also made permanent the ability for hospitals to contract out for up to 20 percent of clinical services.

Led by Blackman-Stroud, UUP mounted an 11th hour email and social media campaign urging UUP members and Brooklynites to call their local legislators and urge them to turn away the sustainability plan—which was slated to go into effect immediately. SUNY had to begin implementing the plan by June 15, according to a stipulation in the state’s 2013-14 budget.

“I also want to thank the hard work of Rowena Blackman-Stroud, chapter leaders, our dedicated members at SUNY Downstate and the members who phoned their legislators and told them to reject this plan,” said Kowal.

To continue protecting Downstate's services and jobs, tell your elected state officials to support the alternative restructuring plan for Downstate drafted by UUP, NYSUT, CSEA and PEF. You can sign and send an electronic fax to legislators here.

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