Hopkins Hospital Hit By Hour

Hopkins Hospital Hit By Hour


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Blacks, Unions, & Organizing in the South, 1956-1996


Compiled by Rudolph Lewis



Fred Punch & 1199 Workers

Hopkins Hospital Hit by Hour-Long Walkout

by Hollace Weiner, Staff Reporter

The News American

 (Monday, July 14, 1969)


            The Johns Hopkins Hospital became the first area hospital hit by an apparent organized walkout when more than 150 non-professional workers left their jobs about 11 A.M.      Cautioned repeatedly by officials of the Drug and Hospital Workers Union that Baltimore’s hospitals would be targets for another drive for wage increases and other fringe benefits by the union, Hopkins officials said they were “astonished” by the brief walkout.

            Last month the union, with the close cooperation of the Southern leadership Conference, maneuvered the hospitals in Charleston, S.C. Into many concessions, but only after hundreds of arrests, protest marches and charges of police brutality.

            Today’s walkout was short-lived and appeared to be orderly and without incident. The majority of the demonstrators, dressed in hospital uniforms, were back on their jobs before noon.

            The workers trickled outside the hospital after 11 A.M. and paraded around the building chanting “when the union comes marching in,” to the tune of the Old Dixieland song, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

            The workers, primarily employees of the kitchen, nurses’ aides, maintenance workers and lab technicians, were almost 100 percent Negro. About 50 percent of the demonstrators were men.

            While the peaceful demonstrators strolled around one of America’s most prestigious hospitals, doctors, patients and administrators peered from windows and leaned over balconies for a better view.

Shortly after the start of the walkout, demonstrators gathered around Fred Punch, a 33-year-old union organizer from New York, who jumped on the hood of his car to address the workers.

            “We’re showing them you want to be free, that you want to have something to say about what goes on in the hospital,” Punch shouted to the workers.

            Then he demanded free hospitalization and insurance “as a compensation for the occupational hazard of working around people with diseases.”

            He also demanded a “real” grievance procedure, with employee representatives sitting on the panel.

Warming up, Punch charged hospital supervisors with “arbitrarily firing and suspending” workers politicking for the union.            

            Then Punch leaped from the car and with about 20 of the demonstrators charged into the hospital and headed for the office of the hospital president, Dr. Russell A. Nelson.

            Outside the door of the president’s office, the union representative and the workers met hospital administrator David L. Everhart.

            “When will you meet with me?’ Punch said to Everhart.

            Everhart replied, “I will meet with the union at their convenience.”

            The two then set a meeting for Friday at 9 o’clock at the Sheradon Baltimore Inn, across the street from the hospital.

            Everhart said he was “astonished” by the walkout.

            he said he had sent a letter to Punch last Friday informing him that he (Everhart) would be glad to meet  with Punch.

            Everhart also said the hospital had consented to allow a secret ballot election to determine if the workers wanted to be represented by the union.

            Earlier, Punch admitted the hospital’s concession to the secret ballot election, but charged that officials had scheduled meetings “at which employes are urged to vote against a union.”

            “We believe the hospital’s position to be fair and responsible,’ a statement by the hospital said. “The hospital has offered to meet a union representative. We believe the demonstration was unnecessary and disruptive to this hospital’s work, which is to care for sick people.”

            The Union has demanded of several Baltimore hospitals that they increase wages and offer fringe benefits to their non-professional workers.

            Hopkins raised its minimum wages to $1.80 per hour two weeks ago.

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posted 24 July 2008 




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