Alethia Jones

Alethia Jones is the Director of Education and Leadership Development at 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest healthcare union local in the United States, representing 400,000 members in 5 states (NY, NJ, MA, FL, MD) and Washington, DC. 

At CoLab, Alethia’s project will explore how ordinary health care workers can be incorporated as leaders and partners in the pending transformation in the healthcare delivery system as new laws, regulations and incentives are forcing a field-wide shift. Currnetly the US healthcare system must transform from being the most expensive in the industrial world with the worst health outcomes for its population to one that delivers effective healthcare at a lower cost. To accomplish this, long entrenched systems that center on the sickest patients receiving expensive in-patient and emergency care while charging for every procedure (the fee for service system) must be replaced by a system of primary, community based, and preventive care that rewards providers for obtaining and maintaining health (value based payments). How can ordinary healthcare workers shape the emerging system as critical partners? Unique among healthcare unions, 1199 members range from professionals (RNs, laboratory technicians, social workers) to administrative and service workers (clerical, billing, culinary, engineering and custodial) who work in a variety of medical settings (hospitals, nursing homes, home care, community clinics, public hospitals). How can the journey towards a “culture of health” genuinely incorporate the wisdom and knowledge of these workers, patients and community members?

Prior to joining 1199SEIU UHE, Alethia spent 20 years as a scholar-practitioner of urban and immigrant politics and policy. She earned her BA in Urban Studies/Anthropology at Columbia University and her PhD at Yale University in Political Science. Her research examines how laws and policies affect immigrant integration into US, identifying the political and cultural dynamics that generate inclusion and exclusion. During her academic career she cultivated a deep interest in facilitation for social change and social justice. Upon leaving academia, she taught comparative urban studies in Brazil, South Africa and Vietnam. She has consulted with unions on immigration and co-edited a book (2014) with Barbara Smith and Virginia Eubanks on the origins and legacy of intersectional movement building.