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Schuylkill Center caregivers form union for a voice in care during pandemic

Licensed practical nurses and nursing assistants join other Genesis Healthcare employees in SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania

More than 140 caregivers at Schuylkill Center, a nursing home owned by Genesis Healthcare, will have a strong voice at work after joining SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania this past Thursday. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit nursing home workers hard and exposed many issues in the industry, leading a growing number of caregivers to organize unions to protect themselves and their residents.

COVID-19 has spread like wildfire in Pennsylvania nursing homes, leading to large numbers of infections among residents and workers alike. Schuylkill center has had 105 cases among residents and 82 cases among workers, meaning close to a majority of workers were infected at some point during the pandemic. While many factors contribute to infection rates, a recent study showed that unionized nursing homes have lower mortality rates from COVID-19 infections. 

“Especially with the pandemic, we need a voice in the decisions affecting us and our residents now more than ever,” said Susan Stine, a certified nursing assistant at the nursing home. “We formed a union because we need to protect ourselves and our residents, and make sure Genesis is doing everything it can to keep us safe and healthy.”

Even before the pandemic, workers were concerned about investment in frontline care and staff. Genesis has failed to provide regular raises to Schuylkill Center caregivers while taking away holidays, retirement contributions, and other benefits. LPNs and nursing assistants organized to make sure resources are used to recruit and retain staff, and improve staffing, especially in light of the millions of dollars in Federal government aid Genesis received during the pandemic.

“Our residents deserve the very best, and we need Genesis to invest in us so we can keep providing the high-quality care we are known for. It’s hard to provide quality care to our residents when we’re struggling to take care of ourselves and our own families,” said Diane Pritiskutch, a licensed practical nurse at Schuylkill Center. “We’re looking forward to negotiating a contract that puts resources back into the frontlines of resident care.”

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