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We Remember Our Sister in Power, Union Leader Josie Belice

It’s with great sadness that we announce the recent passing of our sister, Josie Belice, to whom we owe a great debt. Her drive and commitment to workers’ rights during the early days of our union were an inspiration to all who knew her.

Josie Belice, union leader and inspiration.

Josie Belice, union leader and inspiration.

Josie was an instrumental leader and activist from the Beverly Manor of Monroeville, Pa. She was the longest-term employee at the facility and one of the key members in the original organizing campaigns for both the Service & Maintenance and LPN units there in 1986 and at Fayette Healthcare Center in Uniontown, Pa. 

Josie testified about conditions and worker treatment at Beverly Manor, a nursing home owned by the nation’s largest for-profit chain — Beverly Enterprises, at a hearing before the U.S. Senate in 1992 on the “Decline of Labor Union Membership.” Josie told Senators:

“During the organizing drive, the harassment was constant. Union supporters like me were given poor evaluations. They said we couldn’t get along with our fellow workers. They even used the patients against us. One time, I was assigned to take care of 29 patients by myself. This was a skilled nursing floor, meaning that the patients were totally dependent on me for their basic needs. On the final hour of my shift, I was told to wash the faces and hands of all 29 residents, dry them, have them dressed in robes and slippers, and sitting up ready for breakfast. Then I had to strip all 29 beds. I worked hard and nearly completed the whole assignment. When my friend showed up for the next shift, I started to cry when I saw her. Beverly wrote me up for overreacting.”

Josie and her coworkers on strike in 1996.

Josie and her coworkers on strike in 1996.

In 1996, when SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania was still known as SEIU 1199P, Josie and her coworkers led a historic three-day strike at Beverly Manor. The nursing home responded by replacing all 500 striking workers. 

But Josie and other member leaders stood together, protested, and filed lawsuits to reinstate their coworkers in what would be the largest unfair labor practice case against any company in the US. A year later, a federal court ordered Beverly to reinstate all 500 workers and management and the union agreed to a new four-year contract. Then, in 2004, the union and Beverly launched a groundbreaking partnership that gave hundreds of workers the freedom to form their union without fear of reprisal or intimidation.

Josie continued to play a key role at the Monroeville Chapter and with the statewide leadership, inspiring others with her dedication to her fellow healthcare workers and the residents in her care. She will always be remembered as a true leader in the labor movement and a fundamental example of the power of the worker when they stand together in a union.

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