Healthcare Union Members Weigh in on Presidential Politics

MONROE – Members of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE) union filled tables of a window-lined ballroom at the Forsgate Country Club on Monday at their organization’s Leadership and Bargaining Conference. Central topics included the organization’s new web resource called “Merger Monitor,” how members could protect the future of unions like their own, and the grassroots legislative efforts the HPAE is making to push safe staffing and accountability legislation.

As of now, HPAE has not endorsed a presidential candidate but their sister union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), has given their support to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Currently, the group is deciding whether or not to join AFT or deciding whether to distribute their own survey to candidates to determine where the union and the PAC affiliated with it will give their support.

PolitickerNJ attended the conference and asked HPAE members why they thought it was important for union members to be politically aware and what their current stances were on presidential politics. For now, it seems most members are either in Clinton’s camp or siding with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Despite the fact that we are on the edge of primary season, a number or HPAE members said they were still unsure of where their vote would go.

Ana Delgado, Child Health Unit, Camden. Member of Rutgers Local 5094.

DSCN5642As a union member, why is it important to be politically involved?

“Right now it is really about engaging people. All we want to do is envelop everyone and make sure everyone’s voices are heard on issues like safe staffing which impacts not only us, but the community as a whole.”

Who are you supporting for president?

“As of now, I don’t know who I am going to vote for. We are definitely going to be going Democratic. Our organization’s goals don’t align very well with the Republican aspect. I can’t be selfish. If we are selfish we don’t move forward. For me, it is what is going to be best for all. I know that whenever I need help my union is there. I am comfortable with my decision going with what will benefit us.”

Jeffrey Peck, Bergen Regional Medical Center. Member of Local 5091.

Peck (center) with members of his local.

As a union member, why is it important to be politically involved?

“We need to get past the people who want to shut us down. Too often we have these fake Democrats that we tread water when they are in power. But we drown when Republicans are in. Politics is huge. The big governor didn’t get in because he was going to break all the unions but that is what he is attempting to do. Steve Sweeney didn’t get in saying he was going to sell out the unions. According to him he is a union guy but it wasn’t my pension plan he rifted, it was somebody else’s. My pension plan, by the way, had already been rifted. I’ve been working in the same institution for 31 years but I have a 13-year pension. Next year I will still have a 13-year pension.”

Who are you supporting for president?

“I think that the AFT jumped a little early. They went for Hillary before they had a chance to let everybody get their full voice out there. Bernie is actually better for the working man than Hillary has been. I understand the pragmatism and that way of thinking but sometimes you have to smash the door down yourself.”

John McCausland, Palisades Medical Center. Member of Local 5030.

DSCN5645As a union member, why is it important to be politically involved?

“I don’t like politics but we don’t have a choice. We have to be involved so that we survive, so that the community I have the honor to serve survives. No matter what I do, my taxes go up anyway.”

Who are you supporting for president?

“Not enough of them yet have come out and actually said what they would do for us, the people on the bottom. We talk about income inequality and I am not seeing that on the Republican ticket at all, sadly. I am not getting either Hillary or Bernie committing themselves to making sure that my children and my grandchildren have the same things that I had. It seems like we are regressing and it is just getting harder to make it. I will take into consideration, significantly, who my union endorses but I will also take into account my family and what it best for them.”

Justin O’Hea, Social Worker. Member of Rutgers Local 5094.

DSCN5646As a union member, why is it important to be politically involved?

“I think people have become so disillusioned about government in general, especially in New Jersey. Minorities and people with mental health issues are stigmatized and blamed for gun violence and all types of things that really have nothing to do with each other. What has been happening with healthcare in this state—with privatization of Medicaid, people getting cut off from crucial services, dipping in to the pension, some of the actions that Governor Christie has done—has made us not heard. The union has been knocked down and suppressed in so many ways.”

Who are you supporting for president?

“Absolutely Bernie Sanders. He is the only one who has a consistent track record of fighting for the middle class and the common good of the American people, for workers, for equality, against income inequality. He is not afraid to stand up the corporations or to special interests and he doesn’t take corporate money. He wants to see the middle class grow, not continue the establishment politics or throw the middle class to the wolves like the other candidates seem to want to do.”

Thomas Murphy, Research Specialist. Member of Rutgers Local 5094. Co-chair of HPAE PAC.

DSCN5647As a union member, why is it important to be politically involved?

“I think, first of all, we are in the public sector and a lot of our jobs depend on funding. Myself, medical research, depends on funding to NIH. There are a lot of state grants. Of course in my union there are also professional issues. One bill that we did work on this year was a bill to increase the scope of practice physicians’ assistants and that, believe it or not, was signed by the governor.”

Who are you supporting for president?

“I know it would be a toss up between Hillary and Bernie. I am still a little bit on the fence but I am leaning toward Hillary only because I believe she is better as far as foreign relations go. From a union perspective I don’t think there is a person on the Republican side who would be supportive of unions. History shows that strong unions equal a strong middle class.”

Stephanie Orrico, Retired RN, Englewood Hospital and Medical Center. Member of Local 5004.

DSCN5648As a union member, why is it important to be politically involved?

“We have a legislative agenda and I think it is important that we speak to the candidates and listen to what they have to say. I think it is important to hear what they are supporting and what they are willing to support and how it reflects our agenda.”

Who are you supporting for president?

“I like them both [Clinton and Sanders] but if I am looking at who I think has the best chance to win, I believe it is Hillary Clinton. I think she has demonstrated her ability in the past. She has an understanding of healthcare and the issues of healthcare. She has an understanding of the working public. She has an understanding that we no longer have a middle class. There are the rich and then there is everyone else.”

Doris Bell, Registered Nurse, Cooper University Hospital. Member of Local 5118.

DSCN5649As a union member, why is it important to be politically involved?

“The political awareness gets people elected who are concerned about the same issues we are concerned about.”

Who are you supporting for president?

“I am pretty sure I will be voting for Hillary Clinton. One, she is a Democrat and two, I feel she has a lot of the same concerns I have about people. She has a more human side to her. I think the most important thing is that she would listen and get enough information to make an educated choice.” Healthcare Union Members Weigh in on Presidential Politics