July 26, 2016

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Sunshine, smiles and a call for volunteers

uupdate 7-26-16

Nothing works quite like a picnic to put smiles on faces, raise morale and recruit new activists to get involved in their union.

And the leaders of UUP’s Downstate Medical Center Chapter outdid themselves July 26.

Nearly 700 members attended the Downstate Chapter’s “Summer Activation Meeting and Picnic,” held in a grassy, shady outdoor courtyard at the hospital known as The Grove.

Members enjoyed the breezy, warm summer afternoon, lining up by the dozens for lunch, conversation and speeches by UUP President Fred Kowal, Downstate Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Lucchesi (a UUP member) and Chapter President Rowena Blackman-Stroud.

The event, sanctioned through the union’s Chapter Action Project, was meant as a volunteer activiation event and a morale builder for members, who have seen wholesale downsizing and the loss of nearly a third of the hospital’s jobs over the last several years.

Earlier this year, the state hired Northwell Health to do a study to provide options to improve health care in Brooklyn. The state will use the study to award $700 million budgeted to transform Kings County health services. There is uncertainty as to what Downstate's role will be in the plan.

“Morale is low,” said Blackman-Stroud. “Everyone is frustrated with what’s going on. But there are smiles everywhere today.”

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“Every campus should take advantage of the opportunity to unite in these turbulent times, to pull membership together and remind everyone of the importance of being in a union,” said UUP Outreach Committee Co-Chair Tom Tucker, above, scooping ice cream.

Kowal vowed to work with the governor’s office, legislators and SUNY to keep Downstate as Brooklyn’s preeminent public hospital and a hub for medical care in the borough. Hundreds of thousands of patients each year, many of them from Central Brooklyn, depend on Downstate for health care services. The hospital provides care for all patients, regardless of their ability to pay.

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“It’s a case we’re making to legislators and they are with us,” Kowal, above, said. “They are saying the same thing we are saying to the governor, that Downstate has already been downsized. There can be no more reduction of services. This must remain as the greatest medical care center and medical education facility in New York, and I will stand with the leadership of your chapter to ensure that it is.”

“We are still standing,” said Blackman-Stroud. “We have the scars to show, but we are still standing.”

Chapter leaders like Janelle Gordon and Nandika Ekanayake used the event as a way to recruit members to become more involved in the union. Gordon said she got three members to volunteer to become UUP department representatives.

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“This was a really good opportunity to talk to people about becoming more involved in their union,” said Gordon, above.

Ekanayake said that Kowal’s appearance was also a drawing card for Downstate Chapter members.

“It brought people together to meet with the statewide president and ask questions,” she said. “This event helped educate people about what the union does.”

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