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Union gets justice for member


SSEU Local 371 member Osvaldo Villafañe (l.), with DC 37 Council Rep Alexander Elias, won an upgrade and back pay after years of taking on the work of a higher title.
A SSEU Local 371 member at Metropolitan Hospital in Manhattan finally received long-overdue justice after working out-of-title for years alongside higher level colleagues.

Osvaldo Villafañe works as an Addiction Counselor Level I in the Behavorial Health Dept. — Methadone Treatment Program at the hospital. Villafañe, who was hired by NYC Health+Hospitals in 2003, had for years been taking on responsibilities above his title without the recognition and pay he deserved for his work and educational background. Villafañe holds a college degree, which he earned before his hiring.

“I was doing just as much, if not more, work than all the other Level II counselors,” said Villafañe. “A Level 2 takes on more difficult cases. So I was doing the work of a Level II but without the pay.”

“This was a total disregard of Mr. Villafañe as a professional,” said DC 37 Council Rep Alexander Elias.

“Yet throughout the process, he maintained the high standards of service as he worked with clients in a highly stressful environment,” said Elias,

Villafañe took action and alerted the union, which filed a Step 1 grievance in December 2015.

In the course of the case, hospital management denied Villafañe was working out-of-title, until finally the hospital’s director of labor relations conceded.

In July, in an agreement reached before the case would have gone to arbitration, Villafañe was promoted to Addiction Counselor Level II, which increased his pay by $4,285. In the settlement, he also received $4,606 in retroactive pay.

Villafañe, won a similar grievance in 2006. Despite that victory, the hospital continued to compel Villafañe to work out of his title. It ignored a cease and desist order — and also failed to offer a title upgrade.

“I have finally gotten what I deserve to be getting in terms of my pay and title,” said Villafañe, who is now on the waiting list to be a Senior Counselor.

“If it were not for the union Mr. Villafañe would have continued to do more with less, and for less,” said Elias.