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Our History

District 1199C is an affiliate of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, AFSCME, AFL-CIO. The roots of the National Union go back to June 7, 1932 when a group of pharmacists founded the Pharmacists Union of Greater New York. For more on the history of the National Union, visit the National Union’s website.

Our own history began in December 1969, when a conference was held to form the 1199 National Organizing Committee for the express purpose of organizing health care workers throughout the country. Hoping to organize, committee representatives went to various cities across the country including Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Boston and Philadelphia. At that time hospital workers were not allowed to join a union! The National Organizing Committee successfully lobbied Harrisburg for the passage of Act 195 which gave hospital workers in Pennsylvania the right to organize and compelled employers to bargain in good faith.

In 1974 federal law granted hospital workers throughout the country the right to unionize!

In Philadelphia, nursing home workers at Inglis House, Philadelphia Geriatric Center, and Workmen’s Circle Home, and hospital workers at Hahnemann Hospital, Metropolitan Hospital, Children’s Hospital and Wills Eye Hospital, were among the first to organize and win Union contracts through Local 1199C, as the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organizing Committee was then called. These early victories were led by Henry Nicholas, the current President of the District. Since December 1981, Mr. Nicholas has also been President of the National Union.

All of our successes were cast in shadow on August 28, 1972 when Norman Rayford, an organizer with Local 1199C, was killed by a hospital guard at Metropolitan Hospital during a strike. It is in his memory that we dedicate ourselves to the cause of bringing hope and change to health care workers everywhere.
In November, 1973, the National Organization was renamed the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees. At the same time, autonomous districts, one of which was District 1199C in Philadelphia, were formed.

An affiliate of the National Union, District 1199C has experienced rapid growth under the leadership of President Nicholas. Presently we have more than 17,000 members [Ed Note: verify figure. Lb], representing workers in all fields in the major health care institutions in Philadelphia and our members have experienced tremendous gains in wages, benefits, and working conditions.