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Phoebe Nursing Home Workers Will Not Settle For Poverty

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  — October 31, 2015

Workers know poverty wages will lower standards of care, worry for residents

ALLENTOWN, PA — 400 healthcare workers at Phoebe Ministries in Allentown and Berks are standing strong against the company’s proposal to cut wages so much, it will throw many of them into poverty and put quality care at risk.

“Phoebe is a leader in senior care,” said Rachael Herczeg, an LPN at the home. “The high ratings and recognition our home gets is because every one of us caring for residents has dedicated ourselves to this career, and the family-sustaining wages have ensured we can bring in and retain an extremely high level of caregivers. Now management wants to throw that away.”

Management has proposed wage cuts of up to five dollars an hour. Those cuts will force some workers into poverty. Executives at Phoebe make six-figure salaries.

“This proposal means a pay cut of about $10,000 for me,” said Deb Edelman, a housekeeper at Phoebe Allentown. “I don’t know how I will raise my family.”

The effect of low nursing home wages is felt both inside the facility and in the community.

When wages are low, homes have trouble retaining staff. Workers will take multiple jobs or put in 50-60 hour weeks trying to make ends meet, which leads to call offs, short staffing, and high turnover. Turnover is a leading measure of nursing home quality and is directly tied to wages.

Forcing workers into poverty means they will need to turn to public services like food stamps and welfare, straining the community’s resources. It also lowers the tax base, meaning less revenue.

This year, Phoebe Allentown was rated one of the “Top Places To Work” by the Allentown Morning Call. Workers are fighting to keep it that way.

“I’ve made this my job, and my career, for 30 years,” said Cindy Lazarus, who works in the Food and Nutrition Department. “I feel like they don’t care at all about that dedication, and what this proposal would mean for Phoebe residents and this entire community.”

The workers’ contract expired Saturday, October 31st, but the company has agreed to meet again on Monday, November 2nd for more talks.

On Tuesday, November 10th, workers at Phoebe Allentown and Phoebe Berks will hold an informational picket from 2:00-4:00 p.m. outside each of the facilities to let the community know they will stay committed to achieving a contract that protects residents and the community.

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For more information contact Karen Gownley at karen.gownley@seiuhcpa.org or at 717-805-6070.

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