FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 5, 2023
CONTACT: Emily Dong: 267-761-1502 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Nursing Home Workers at Saunders Nursing and Rehabilitation Center Vote to Authorize Strike
Despite federal and state crackdowns on nursing home reform, recent industry collaboration with union caregivers, and $600M in budget funding for nursing home staffing, Premier-owned Saunders Nursing and Rehabilitation Center still refuses to bargain a fair first contract as the new owner.
WYNNEWOOD, PA — Nursing home workers at Saunders Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, outside of Philadelphia, voted nearly unanimously on Wednesday to send a strike notice for a potential unlimited strike beginning on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
After months of negotiations with new owner Premier Healthcare Management, workers say management’s recent contract proposals would make it more difficult to recruit and retain a skilled workforce. This comes at the heels of the Covid-19 pandemic exposing the staffing crisis in Pennsylvania’s nursing homes. Workers’ contract expired last May.
“No healthcare worker ever wants to go on strike,” said Tisheia Frazier, a certified nursing assistant for 20 years. “But our nursing home’s new owner is proposing cutbacks. Instead of investing in their employees, they are finding ways to dismantle progress in wages, benefits, and training that we have worked so hard to achieve. It ends up being the residents who pay for all these cuts. At every level, we have felt disrespected, and it is disrespectful to the residents. We have been walked out on during negotiations and had scheduled bargaining sessions canceled. If management isn’t going to take resident care seriously, then we will have to take things into our own hands.”
In the backdrop of President Joe Biden announcing last year federal crackdowns on nursing home reforms, last September over 2,000 union nursing home workers won strong contracts at some of the largest chains in Pennsylvania which invest in permanent staff and will improve resident care. This was a big step forward in an industry that elected officials and the public are concerned is increasingly becoming for-profit, a pattern which includes Saunders Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
Saunders is one of many formerly nonprofit and county facilities that New York-based owner Jonathan Bleier, CEO of Premier Healthcare Management, recently purchased. While Premier settled fair contracts with other union nursing homes in Western Pennsylvania, they are refusing to meaningfully invest in Philadelphia-area workers. Employers have long devalued and dismissed the largely women-of-color care workforce, furthering the economic, racial, and gender inequities that hold all working people back.
“We spent the past three years of this pandemic risking our lives, bringing COVID home to our families, because we love our residents,” said Jasmine Thompson, a certified nursing assistant. “But here we are working side by side next to agency staff, not only doing the same work but also helping train them, yet management pays agency two or three times more than us. Permanent staff are the ones who are here every day, who know and have a connection with the residents. All this money spent on agency could be spent on hiring more permanent staff or investing in the caregivers who’ve been here this whole time. Is this what management thinks we’re worth?”
Saunders is receiving a $1 million investment in funding from the state budget. The money, much of it recurring, is taxpayer dollars and comes with accountability to ensure 70% goes to staffing and bedside care. Workers are demanding a fair contract which puts this money directly to recruiting and retaining staff for quality resident care.
By law, nursing home administrators must receive a 10-day notice before a strike at a healthcare facility takes place. If they are not able to reach an agreement by Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 16th, workers will begin their strike.
SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania is the state’s largest and fastest-growing union of nurses and healthcare workers, uniting tens of thousands of professional and technical employees, direct care workers, and service employees in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home- and community-based services, and state facilities across the Commonwealth. SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania members are committed to improving the lives of health care workers and ensuring quality care and healthy communities for all Pennsylvanians.