Rivera Goes National

Dennis Rivera is taking over a new super-union for national health care workers, leaving the New York-based 1199 SEIU. His replacement is George Gresham, currently the secretary-treasurer .

The major bump up for Rivera comes right when Eliot Spitzer is about to (what’s Hillary’s phrase for this kind of thing?) drop the hammer on health care spending in New York, and, presumably, look for more federal aid to offset some of the costs. That’s where Rivera, now an official national union leader, may have an impact.

In other words, they’ll be speaking to each other in slightly different negotiating positions.

Official statement after the jump.

— Azi Paybarah

1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East
Politics & Legislation Department

For Immediate Release:
January 29, 2007

NY Champion of Workers and Quality Healthcare to Leave 1199SEIU to Chair New National Health Union

Will Lead National Effort For Quality Healthcare For All, and To Unite 10 Million U.S. Healthcare Workers

(New York, NY) — Dennis Rivera, the creative leader of the nation’s largest local union of healthcare workers, the New York-based 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, will leave that post this spring, following the Union’s campaign to defend against the annual attempt to cut health services for New Yorkers in Albany, to become chair of SEIU Healthcare, a new national Union of nearly one million healthcare workers inside the Service Employees International Union, of which 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East will be the largest component. The Union will conduct its triennial election of Union officers in April, and Rivera will not be on the ballot for the first time since 1986.

Under Rivera’s leadership, the Union has forged a partnership with management leaders of New York’s hospitals, nursing homes and homecare agencies, that have successfully worked with both parties in New York’s legislature to protect healthcare delivery in the state.

Rivera’s move to the new national Union comes with the blessing and full support of the 1199SEIU leadership because of the importance of fixing the nation’s broken health care system for patients and workers. The change is expected to be a smooth one. Rivera has been a leading force in SEIU’s Healthcare Division for many years and has been a national leader in the political/legislative arena, especially in the effort to expand healthcare coverage to every American.

Under the Union Constitution, George Gresham, Secretary-Treasurer will assume the Presidency. “We expect a seamless transition,” Rivera said. “George Gresham has been an 1199 leader in the effort to improve healthcare and workers’ lives at every level for over 30 years. No one is more qualified to lead this dynamic organization.”

For his part, Gresham said, “Of course we’ll miss Dennis’ day-to-day counsel, but he isn’t going far. By building the national Union of healthcare workers, he will in fact be giving all of us additional strength. And as the biggest single unit in the new Union, we will be there to support him in his efforts.”

The new national Union’s goal is to unite the 10 million healthcare workers in America to stand up for quality care, comprehensive health care reform, and good jobs that support families and encourage people to pursue careers as nurses and other healthcare workers.

Kenneth E. Raske, President of Greater New York Hospital Association, and a long-time partner of Dennis Rivera through the 1199SEIU/GNYHA Healthcare Education Project said, “We extend our warmest congratulations to Dennis, a trusted ally on healthcare policy issues. We look forward to working with Dennis in his new role on both his continued active involvement in New York matters as well as on national healthcare issues of concern to GNYHA’s member institutions, their patients, and their entire workforce.”

“Dennis Rivera knows how to unite people to change lives and lift up communities,” said SEIU President Andy Stern. “He has reached out to employers to create pioneering partnerships for change. He has reached out to other healthcare organizations and Unions, and he has worked with elected leaders of both parties to bring healthcare to millions and improve quality care in hospitals, nursing homes and homecare settings.

“Dennis is tough, smart, and compassionate, just what’s needed to transform healthcare in this country,” Stern said. “At this moment in history, as the winds of change are blowing toward fundamental healthcare reform, and as SEIU redoubles its efforts to fix our broken health care system, Dennis’ decision to shift his focus to the national effort couldn’t come at a better time.”


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