Heroic efforts by NYSUT and United University Professions in the waning days of the legislative session helped defeat a plan that would have essentially privatized the State University of New York's Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn and turned it from a valued and public community resource into an unrecognizable corporate shell of its former self.
Union activists worked closely with the Brooklyn legislative delegation and a coalition of labor and community activists to defend Downstate Medical from what would have been tantamount to a corporate takeover and a hemorrhaging of unionized jobs that provide essential services to the community.
"This was a hard-fought effort, and one in which we had the backing of the people, the lawmakers, the unions and the faith-based communities of Central Brooklyn," NYSUT's Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta said. "Stopping this ill-advised proposal takes us a big step toward securing Downstate's future as a lifeline for its community."
The executive bill would have authorized establishment of a corporation that would have co-operated Downstate and outsourced a number of jobs and services the hospital provides.
UUP President Fred Kowal said the union will continue to fight for the protection of its Downstate members.
"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 Kowal. "We won the battle but we haven't won the war. This is an ongoing struggle that will demand our vigilance."
UUP Downstate Chapter President Rowena Blackman-Stroud said that preserving Downstate as a public, accessible and viable teaching hospital is essential so it can continue to graduate physicians who serve many economically challenged neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Many of the young doctors practicing in Brooklyn, including many of the physicians of color, trained at Downstate.
"The focus here has been to preserve public and affordable health care for Brooklyn residents and public education that trains dedicated physicians," she said.
Thousands of Downstate's employees are members of UUP, NYSUT's affiliate at SUNY, which represents more than 35,000 academic and professional faculty at the SUNY state-operated campuses.