Young Leader Takes on Large Responsibilities

Chris Woods began his union career as a field organizer.

Story by: ABIGAIL PERLMAN / Constitution High School

Photo by: LISA WILK / TUHS Press Staff

At only 27-years old, Chris Woods has climbed the executive ladder to become the youngest Executive Vice President in the National Union for Hospital and Health Care Employees. As the Executive VP for local District 1199C Woods manages 13,000 members of this union in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey.

Woods grew up in this union, sitting in on meetings throughout his whole childhood.  His grandmother was an 1199C vice president who would “drag” him along with her to work.  Then, when Woods graduated college, he had a job lined up for him whether he liked it or not.  He said, “I didn’t think I had an option other than being in the Union.”

Woods studied Sports Administration at Edinboro University in Erie County, PA.  After graduation his career swayed from the sports direction and toward the union. It was inevitable.

Woods began his 1199C career as a field organizer, which he said is “a tough job, because many employers do not want unions.”

Why wouldn’t employers want unions if those organizations are helping people?

“Well, let me ask you this, would you want someone coming in telling you how to run your business?” Woods said.

Woods spoke in detail about the fights employers often put up to keep a union out and citied incidents like employers firing people during union organizing campaigns.

While, there is obvious tension between the unions and management, Woods stressed that all unions are not the same.

Woods thinks that his union is the best.  It’s the largest in the city, and therefore has the most responsibility and power.  He commented that, “The more members you have the more powerful you are as a union.”

He was recently in contract talks with all of the largest hospitals in Philadelphia, which required an especially delicate negotiation because if a strike occurred it would be catastrophic for both sides.

Woods said his union is very active with its members, and is very present at the workplace however, he says not all unions are like that.

“Some other unions take your dues and don’t do anything.” Woods said.

If his union were like that practically all of the city’s health care employees would have no representation.  Which is why with great power comes great responsibility.

Woods spoke for District 1199C saying, “No one can represent nurses like we can.”

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