On Friday, September 21st, more than 50 nurses and other healthcare workers from across Pennsylvania stood alongside John Fetterman, candidate for lieutenant governor, Maria Collett, RN, and candidate for state senate, and state representative Maureen Madden on Friday to unveiled the “Care Plan for PA” and pledge to support those values and the candidates who fight for them.
“People who go into healthcare do it as a calling. Our passion is to take care of people, so when we look around and see our communities suffering, we need to change that,” said Lolita Owens, a home care attendant and member of SEIU Healthcare PA’s Executive Board. “We need legislators and candidates to listen to us, then hold them accountable to standing with us — and we will support them if they do.”
The Care Plan for PA is the result of thousands of healthcare workers weighing in on the issues that matter most, both professionally and for their own families. The key elements of the plan are:
- Safe staffing: No one should ever suffer because there aren’t enough nurses and caregivers in a hospital or nursing home.
- Good jobs and strong union contracts: Working people should be able to take care of their families and everyone deserves to have a say in their wages and working conditions.
- Adequate funding for services that help our children and the elderly.
“As a nurse, I know staffing can literally be a matter of life and death,” said Erica Zimmerman, RN, from Western Pennsylvania. “There are staffing issues in nearly every hospital and nursing home in Pennsylvania, which is why we need legislators who will commit to passing safe patient limit laws. I will only support candidates who do.”
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf recently spoke out in support of safe patient limit laws after holding a roundtable with nurses in Pittsburgh. The Wolf Administration has also included frontline workers and SEIU Healthcare PA members on two advisory councils, which aim to improve hospital and nursing home care. Denelle Weller, RN, from Mt. Nittany, advises on the Patient Safety Authority Executive Board and Yetta Timothy, CNA, from Harrisburg, is part of the Long Term Care Council. With a senior population poised to grow by 1 million by 2030, adequate funding for long-term care is essential.
“Protecting the people of Pennsylvania comes first,” said Fetterman, who is running for lieutenant governor. “Governor Wolf and I value the voices of nurses and all healthcare workers, which is why we’re committed to making sure our healthcare system has the funding it needs so people who need care can get it. Pennsylvania won’t succeed if its people can’t succeed.”
Christopher Horton, a nursing home dietary worker from the Altoona area, says it’s important for healthcare workers to talk with candidates and understand how legislation can affect their jobs.
“Some companies will try to take whatever they can from workers – from wages to vacation to healthcare. But our union contract protects us so we can fight back to keep what we have earned,” said Horton. “Some politicians who want to pass laws that make it harder for workers to form their unions and take away their rights. We can’t have corporations calling all the shots – We need to make sure we always have the right to negotiate a strong contract.”
Representative Maureen Madden, from Monroe County, agrees. “If you work hard you should be able to support your family and pay your bills. Workers’ rights to build strong unions are key to that. I’ve been fighting for two years in Harrisburg to beat back political extremist attacks on working people, and we’ll keep fighting.”
Healthcare workers who participated in the event are all leaders on SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania’s Executive Board.