Long term caregivers are pushing – and winning – $15 an hour to improve resident care and jobs.
PENNSYLVANIA – Approximately 7,000 nursing home workers from 50 facilities who are members of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania are now engaged in negotiations for new union contracts set to expire at the end of March. Workers including certified nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses, dietary, housekeeping, and other job classifications from various nursing home chains as well as independent nursing homes are bargaining over proposals designed to move the industry forward for workers, residents and communities alike. Caregivers are calling for minimum wages of at least $15 an hour and fair wages for all workers, affordable healthcare, and improved staffing.
And their efforts are paying off. Just this week, workers at Saunders House and Bryn Mawr Terrace, two Philadelphia-area nursing homes, ratified contracts that boosted starting wages for workers as much as 19%, providing a pathway for all workers to achieve $15 an hour, as well as additional training opportunities and more affordable healthcare.
“I’m thrilled that I will be making $16.35 by the end of this contract,” said Virginia Campbell, a CNA from Bryn Mawr Terrace. “As a CNA, my top priority is giving our elderly residents the best care possible. This wage boost will go a long way to reduce turnover and caregiver stress.”
Despite the current funding challenges posed by the state budget, the nursing home industry continues to be profitable, generating more than $400 million in profits in 2014. Nursing homes are overwhelmingly taxpayer- funded, deriving nearly 70 percent of their revenue from Medicaid and Medicare.
In 2015, the Keystone Research Center released a report stating that that nearly 15,000 nursing home workers relied on SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid or both at an estimated annual cost of $118 million to Pennsylvania taxpayers.
“This means taxpayers are, in many cases, ‘double-subsidizing’ poverty jobs in Pennsylvania nursing homes,” said Dr. Stephen Herzenberg, an economist, KRC executive director. “If we hope to strengthen the state’s economic recovery, rebuild the middle class and ensure that the Commonwealth’s aging population receives the consistent, quality care it deserves, caregivers need to make a living wage of at least $15 per hour.”
In 2015, Rep. Ed Gainey and Sen. Daylin Leach introduced legislation, The Nursing Facility Accountability Act (H.B. 1449 & SB 1057) that would certify nursing homes paying at least $15 an hour as “living wage nursing homes,” allowing consumers to choose facilities with adequate wages and low turnover, and require nursing homes to reimburse the state for the cost of any employees who use state-funded public assistance.
“When nursing home workers no longer must rely on public assistance to make ends meet, that means our tax dollars won’t be used to subsidize the profitable nursing home industry and instead can be directed toward education and other critical needs,” said Rep. Gainey.
As momentum builds toward contract expiration at the end of the month, workers continue to mobilize, ready to do whatever it takes to hold their employers accountable to providing contracts that value workers and residents.
“I am a single mother raising four children and regularly work between 50 to 65 hours a week. This is not good for my family but I simply can’t afford to work a 40 hour week,” said Stephanie Cole, a CNA from Lancaster.” We need our employers to do the right thing and work with us to settle contracts that raises wages that allow us to provide for – and spend time with – our families.”
For more information, contact at Amelia.Abromaitis@seiuhcpa.org or at 215-219-4248.