About Rafael Pizarro

Originally from the Bronx and the Lower East Side in New York City, I studied at Sarah Lawrence College on a full scholarship and, later, at the University of Texas in Austin. My first union experience was working with 1199 (before SEIU) which was only in New York at the time. My mother was a member of the union and I practically grew up there.

Starting when I was 22 years-old – the youngest staff member – I learned how to bargain, create communications products, and effectively engage politicians and the media. Among other major tasks, I organized a demonstration of 40,000 workers and community members in Albany in support of Single Payer healthcare.

I’m grateful that the union gave me the opportunity for such a broad range of collective bargaining experiences and I repaid it through my dedication, professionalism, hard work and willingness to learn what I didn’t know.

I took that knowledge when personal reasons brought me to California. There I went to work for the Committee of Interns and Residents, SEIU, where I negotiated a fair contract for 1,500 physicians. As there was very few staff, I was responsible for media and political action in support of negotiations. This required the ability to know what captures the positive attention of the media and elected officials. I became familiar with editors and reporters and the resulting coverage, both in broadcast media and print, was a testimony to my abilities. Not incidentally, this contract success helped us secure Agency Shop status, which the union had pursued for many years without success.

From California I returned to 1199, the union now having expanded to include Massachusetts and part of SEIU. There I negotiated nursing home contracts (7 in one year!) and for a unit of visiting nurses. There was professional and effective media and political staff and I was able to work with them easily as I understood their function and challenges.

The most recent experience I had leading bargaining was with a group of visiting nurses in Massachusetts. In a bargaining unit of approximately 150 members, we had as many as 25 at the table at one time. I drew up the proposals together with the committee. Among the major issues – besides wages of course – were educational benefits and leveling the cost members paid (so that each employee paid an equal percentage share) into their health plan. We concluded negotiations with a fair raise – 6 ½ percent over three – joined the 1199 Training Fund, which has considerable educational benefits and represented a ½ percent employer only contribution and secured a 25% employee contribution for all members towards the cost of the health plan, which resulted in decreased costs for many members. Together with management and union delegates, we crafted a Memorandum of Agreement that clearly presented the exact changes to be made to the existing agreement. This meant that the new full contract could be produced and executed immediately.

In early spring of 2018, I decided it was time to go back home. I had family reasons but I also love New York and missed it all the time I was away. There I have looked for a position that utilizes my experience and skills. I will work as a contract negotiator but can offer other skills to labor organizations.

I’m not a one-sided person. In addition to collective bargaining and politics, I read a great deal of literature and history, write fiction and poetry, enjoy going to museums and other artistic venues or performances. As I’m known to be quite personable, I enjoy talking with people about these interests and I come across as a full human being, not just a union operative.