Editor’s Note: The following comes courtesy of Ralph Palladino’s “Union Strong” pamphlet – click here to view it in its entirety.
New York, NY – In November of 1989 — just before the city election for mayor — Ed I. Koch came to Bellevue Hospital to speak to the staff after the murder of Dr. Kathryn Hinnant, who was killed by a patient, and pregnant at the time of her death. Dr. Hinnant came to work on her day off.
At the huge staff meeting, Koch told us after facing complaints about staffing levels, “The problem with you is that you do not work hard enough.” This enraged me. I took the floor and told him how insensitive he was. I said that we were often working through our lunch hours without compensation to help patients, and that we worked hard for low pay.
He interrupted me to move on to another question. But I said, “I am not finished, sir!” I then reminded him that Dr. Hinnant came to work on her day off. I could have been charged for insubordination — but wasn’t.
Later, on election day, I presented a flyer to the Bellevue staff reminding them of Koch’s insensitivity. This standing up to a bully like Koch in front of the entire staff earned me the respect of workers and leaders of other unions at Bellevue.
Ralph Palladino is a retired 42-year veteran union leader from Clerical Administrative Local 1549 DC 37 AFSCME in New York City. For 21 years he served as Local 1549 2ndVice President overseeing Political Action/Advocacy, Shop Steward Training, and Internal Organizing. He played a key role in organizing Metro Plus HMO workers into Local 1549.
He is now a member of the DC37 AFSCME Retirees Association and has published articles in various publications including the New York Daily News, Staten Island Advance, Asbury Park Press, Los Angeles Free Press, The Coaster, the Mayor of New York’s website, LaborPress, and Labor Notes on issues of politics, racism, immigration, and labor. He was editor of the Local 1549 “Members in the Know” and “Shop Stewards in the Know” newsletters. The above work is part of a collection of columns called “Union Strong: Rebuilding the Labor Movement.”