Health

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1199: The National Health Care Workers' Union

1199: The National Health Care Workers' Union (originally known as the Drug, Hospital, and Health Care Employees Union-District 1199) was a labor union originally founded by Leon J. Davis for pharmacists in New York City in 1932. The union organized all workers in drug stores on an industrial basis, including pharmacists, clerks, and soda jerks. The union led pioneering pickets and strikes against racial segregation and racially discriminatory hiring in Harlem and elsewhere in New York City during the 1930s. Since 1199 was a "left-led" union, its leadership was investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1948 for Communist "infiltration." 1199 was a tiny local at the time, however, and during the expulsions of large left-led unions from the CIO in the 1940s, 1199 as a local eventually found shelter under the auspices of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union. In the late 1950s, the drugstore-based union launched large-scale organizing drives at voluntary hospitals in New York, mobilizing a heavily African-American and Puerto Rican-American workforce in the first flush of the postwar Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously described 1199
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