Jessica Ellul, a member of Connecticut Health Care Associates (CHCA/NUHHCE/AFSCME), was honored last night by the Berger-Marks Foundation for her efforts to build a union for 900 employees of two hospitals.
Ellul, who works with cancer patients as a unit coordinator on the oncology ward at Danbury Hospital, is one three winners of the Kate Mullany Courageous Young Worker Award, which honors women, age 35 or younger, “who have stood up for workers’ rights and organized their own workplaces in the face of overwhelming opposition.”
AFSCME nominated her for the award, which acknowledges Ellul’s “three years tirelessly fighting for – and ultimately winning – a union for the service and maintenance staff at the hospital.”
Ellul, in an interview, explained how she actually “grew up” at Danbury Hospital. Her parents met there four decades ago and her mother retired from the hospital after a 38-year-career. Her grandmother, aunts and uncles worked there. When she was old enough, Ellul applied for a job at the hospital, and has worked there ever since.
“For anyone who needs assistance, I’m the hub of the floor,” she said.
She was also the hub of a three-year-long effort to organize a union for the 900 custodians, maintenance workers, lab techs, nursing assistants and others employed at both Danbury and New Milford hospitals.
Ellul said after the hospital’s hired union busters tried to intimidate her, she confronted Danbury’s administrator last year. “I said, ‘This is my home, and you’re allowing them to treat me this way? I literally grew up in this place!’”
On September 1, 2016, her years of effort to bring a union to Danbury paid off when a majority of the employees voted to join CHCA/NUHHCE/AFSCME.
“When I knew we won the election, I literally just sobbed. I couldn’t speak,” she said.
Ellul said she is honored to receive the award from the Berger-Marks Foundation. “I’m just so thankful and so grateful, and so appreciative that someone acknowledged the amount of work I had put in” to organize her fellow workers, she said.
“Jessica’s dedication to her fellow workers through her efforts to organize a union was tireless,” said Mary Florio, president of CHCA. “She poured her heart and soul into helping them gain respect on the job through a union. Now they’re working for their first contract. With Jessica at the center of this effort, too, we know we’ll win a contract we can be proud of.”