The roots of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, AFSCME, AFL-CIO go back to June 7, 1932, when a group of pharmacists founded the Pharmacists Union of Greater New York, which later acquired the name 1199. It was in 1958, when Leon Davis, then President of Local 1199 and Elliot Godoff, a pioneer hospital organizer, gave a proposal to organize hospital workers to the Drug Store Union.
Hospital workers were forgotten people: There was no minimum wage law, no unemployment insurance, no disability benefits, no collective-bargaining rights and virtually no job protection. It was, in fact, illegal for hospital workers to join a Union. Local 1199 voted to commit their Union’s money to help the hospital workers win their Union rights, and in 1958, Montefiore Medical Center was the first hospital organized by Local 1199. The organizing of hospital workers spread around the country.