New York, NY – Struggling longterm caregivers at nine for-profit nursing homes throughout the state plan on launching one-day strikes on July 12 and 13. The Licensed Practical Nurses, Certified Nurse Assistants, Personal Care Attendants, Housekeeping, Dietary Aides, Cooks, Laundry Aides, and Maintenance Workers are represented by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.
“I’ve been there nine years and I don’t even make $15 per hour,” Donna Gregory, a Certified Nurse Assistant at Garden Gate in Cheektowaga, said in a statement. “It’s tough and it hurts. It makes me feel that I’m not worth anything, but I stay for my residents because I love what I do.”
Nursing home caregivers throughout the state are chronically underpaid and overworked. Hundreds aligned with 1199SEIU filled the streets of Times Square last fall, demanding a fair contract reflecting the sacrifices they made during the pandemic.
This past weekend, 1199SEIU rescinded strike notices impacting two for-profit nursing homes Upstate after reaching agreements on a $15-an-hour minimum wage for service workers, wage scales for experience, and higher starting rate of pay across all job titles.
According to the union, Newfane Rehabilitation members now join other caregivers at Buffalo Center & Ellicott Center in resolving their wage dispute. Both Buffalo Center & Ellicott Center will return to the table on July 14, and are looking forward to reaching a tentative agreement after “resolving a small number of outstanding issues.”
The union further reports it has received counter proposals from some of the remaining nine facilities in a “clear effort by some employers to settle the wage disputes and avoid the strikes.”
“We were excited to hear back from management this weekend, but, unfortunately, their counter proposal doesn’t meet our demands,” Tammy Burdick, a Certified Nurse Assistant at Gowanda Rehabilitation, said in a statement. “We will be moving forward with our one-day strike alongside other facilities unless we win the wages we need.”
Last week, 1199SEIU filed five unfair labor practice charges against the McGuire Group alleging the for-profit long-term care owners deliberately engaged in tactics of intimidation against union members planning to participate in one-day strikes. The union requested a federal mediator join negotiations after McGuire reportedly made no movement during bargaining. McGuire, according to the union, declined to have a Federal Mediator join negotiations in advance of the one-day strikes scheduled this week.
Workers say continuity of care from long term caregivers is key.
“In-house people care more for the residents than people coming from outside who don’t know them,” Kaylyn Carney, a Certified Nurse Assistant at Fiddler’s Green in Springville, said in a statement. “The people in here are like my family and I treat them as family. People just don’t know them and come in to just do a job and go home. This is my life, I take care of people for a living.”
Rebecca Pettis, a Cook at Autumn View Health Care Facility in Hamburg, reports that woefully short-staffed kitchens are even forcing clients to wait for daily meals.
“I know some facilities are short staffed,” former Niagara County Legislator and concerned family member Anita Mullane said in a statement, “but perhaps if they paid them more, then they would be able to hire more people.”
The turnover rate at the 10 facilities is more than 50-percent, according to the union.