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Public Employee Press: PEP Talk

Union wins $10K for four Local 768 therapists

Local 768 President Carmen de León

A group grievance filed on behalf of Licensed Creative Arts Therapists in Local 768 was settled in May, with the union recouping about $10,000 in retroactive pay owed to four Bellevue Hospital therapists who were not paid recurring incremental payments (RIPs) from 2017 to 2019.

“The local filed the group grievance for these members to enforce the terms of the contract that provide RIPs after two years of service,” said Local 768 President Carmen de León.

The licensed therapists use art and music to help patients heal. Their skills are especially useful as patients and Bellevue Hospital staff cope with increased stress during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The therapists contacted the union when they realized the Payroll Department failed to add the RIPs to their biweekly paychecks in March 2017. DC 37 Rep Joel Viera-Vera and former Local 768 President Fitz Reid filed the group grievance that initially included 10 therapists.

Linda Ruiz, a Local 768 delegate and shop steward, collected all the data and kept the lines of communication open between the union members, union leadership, and Bellevue management.

“Throughout the grievance process, we sorted out eligibility as not all grievants were entitled to the differential,” Viera-Vera said. “In the end, four therapists were eligible for the RIPs. We set out to make them whole.”

“The challenge was having Labor Relations check and double check the records,” Ruiz said. “It took some time. Joel was very diligent and persistent; he did not drop the ball. The members were patient throughout the process.”

The case was resolved at Step 3 and did not go to arbitration. In June, NYC Health+Hospitals paid the owed retroactive RIPs to the Licensed Creative Arts Therapists, who asked for anonymity.