FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 12, 2022
Contact: Karen Gownley, 717-805-6070; firstname.lastname@example.org
Nursing Home Workers from 39 Homes Send Unfair Labor Practice Charges and Get Ready to Strike if Necessary for Staffing and Accountability from Largest Chains in Pennsylvania
After getting $600M in budget funding for staffing, wages, and resident care, homes refuse to provide detailed information about staffing and agency work and negotiate in good faith
Statewide, PA: Nursing home workers from three of the biggest chains in the state filed Unfair Labor Practice charges against Comprehensive, Guardian, and Priority on Friday for the companies’ failure to provide information about staffing and agency use and not bargaining in good faith.
Over 2500 workers from 39 homes are negotiating new union contracts on the heels of a $600M investment in funding from the state budget. The money, much of it recurring, came with accountability to ensure 70% goes to staffing and bedside care.
“The nursing home industry’s greed and disrespect is everywhere,” said Tyreika Tate, a cook from one of the homes. “They will cut corners, reduce the food options I have to cook for our residents, and short-staff our caregivers to make money while our residents suffer. The last two Sundays I worked almost a 12-hour shift all by myself. I cooked, served, and cleaned the kitchen by myself to make sure our residents were properly cared for.”
The caregivers, working at what’s been named the most dangerous job in the country, led the charge for nursing home reform during COVID with relentless advocacy while working double shifts, falling ill, and making poverty wages. Workers have been fleeing the bedside, making the staffing crisis even worse. Seniors and those who rely on nursing home care are at risk because of the broken system that does not prioritize care. With Pennsylvania’s senior population booming, having safe, reliable options for long term care is a core priority for families.
“We’re paid very little for this work — most of us do it because we care about the people who need us,” said Donna Pronio, a CNA who spoke at today’s press conference (recording here). “On top of that we have very poor health insurance for ourselves. We are healthcare workers and there are times when we can’t even care for ourselves properly. How can we be expected to do our best caring for others when we can’t care for ourselves?”
“Our nursing home operates on agency staff almost every week, who we often have to train, and who don’t have the bonds and connections with residents like we have,” Pronio continued. “Agency staff are incredibly expensive. That’s money that could be spent hiring full-time staff.”
Through their union, caregivers are demanding that the influx of funds to the nursing home industry goes where it’s needed to transform the industry, by meeting the new staffing ratios for quality care and raising wages and job standards to recruit and retain the staff caring for our most vulnerable citizens. Core demands of the contract negotiations include:
- Substantial increases in wages for all employees, in all job titles.
- Employer-paid health insurance.
- Protection of the existing contract in the event of a sale (“Successorship Language”).
- Ensure employers follow new state regulations governing staffing in nursing homes.
Workers are also demanding a written commitment not to interfere in any way with the rights of workers who choose to form their union to demand accountability from private equity firms and bad-actor nursing home chains. Earlier this week federal indictments of healthcare fraud were announced against some owners of Comprehensive-owned Brighton and Mt. Lebanon nursing homes, highlighting the need for accountability in the industry.
“These caregivers have been carrying us through the pandemic to care for our seniors at great personal risk to themselves and their families,” said Matthew Yarnell, President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. “We came together with the industry and electeds to secure this funding to begin transforming this industry into one that prioritizes care and holds companies accountable to workers, residents, and families who rely on and choose nursing home care for their loved ones. Comprehensive, Guardian and Priority need to put their funding where it belongs and be transparent with information we need to bargain fair, strong contracts that will get the staffing residents need and care they deserve.”
Over the next weeks, union members at the 39 homes will hold potential strike votes and be prepared to send strike notices to employers should Comprehensive, Guardian and Priority not operate in good faith.
By law, nursing home administrators must receive a 10-day notice before a strike at a healthcare facility takes place. On top of the 39 nursing homes in negotiations right now, 38 more have contracts expiring in fall.
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.