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Hundreds of PA Nursing Home Workers Vote to Strike

Charles Morris_Web

Nearly 1,000 nursing home workers across the Commonwealth vote to authorize a strike to demand life-saving reform.

PENNSYLVANIA — Nursing home workers at 12 different homes across the Commonwealth have voted to authorize strikes to demand life-saving changes needed for our seniors and other nursing home residents. Caregivers were driven to the decision by the growing crisis in PA’s nursing homes and lack of action to address the perfect storm of unsafe staffing, a global pandemic, and outdated nursing home regulations.

Saunders House_Web“This was a hard decision because nobody ever wants to go on strike,” said Liz Empson, an LPN at Blue Ridge in Harrisburg. “Yet every day we see our residents suffering. We’ve seen staffing dwindle down to less and less to the point we aren’t able to give residents proper baths every day or change them out of soiled briefs in a timely manner. We’ve sounded the alarm with employers. We’ve spoken out publicly. We’ve met with legislators. We’ve testified. Still, change isn’t coming. This is our last resort to get the change our residents need.”

Pennsylvania’s nursing homes are in crisis — the workforce has been stretched to the breaking point after decades of understaffing, lack of investment in a workforce that makes poverty wages, and a pandemic that took an unimaginable physical, mental, emotional, and financial toll on caregivers who have dedicated their lives to our most vulnerable. The 13,000 COVID deaths in PA nursing homes – one of the highest rates in the nation – are the result of a broken system that does not prioritize care or caregivers.

“We need higher wages so we can get more permanent staff in to care for our residents,” said Shelley Robinson, a certified nursing assistant at Rose City in Lancaster. “Residents need to know their caregivers and trust us. We just need more help so we can do what’s best for our residents. How can you get permanent staff if they can make more money down the street at a convenience store?”

Clarion_WebThe 800 workers — representing nurses, nurses aides, and other caregiver positions — at the 12 nursing homes are currently negotiating separate union contracts alongside thousands of other PA nursing home workers. Almost all have identified safe staffing and living wages, and affordable high-quality healthcare as key priorities that need to be addressed if this care crisis is going to be resolved.

In a cyclical nightmare, caregivers say working double and triple shifts just to cover the schedule, but still knowing residents aren’t getting the level of care they need, is causing burnout that further fuels the staffing crisis. Turnover in nursing homes is now 128%.

As state legislators continue to discuss the state budget, caregivers have been clear that a solution is close at hand — designate federal COVID relief funds directly to long-term care while building the reform the industry needs, and ensure transparency and accountability to make sure the funds go directly to better staffing and bedside care.

“Our legislators need to step up and protect those who live in nursing homes and the workers who care for them,” said Matthew Yarnell, President, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. “With over 13,000 nursing home residents lost to this pandemic, the public needs to know that not only will COVID relief money be used for nursing home care, but that money actually gets where it’s supposed to go – for more staffing, and to the bedside to protect residents.

The votes authorize each nursing homes’ negotiation committee (the group of workers who sits down at the bargaining table to negotiate the union contract with management) to issue a 10-day strike notice at any time. 10-day notices are legally required for healthcare worker strikes.

Nursing homes that have voted to authorize strikes are: 

  • Saunders House, Wynnewood
  • Powerback, Philadelphia
  • Riverside Rehab and Nursing Center, Taylor
  • The Gardens At East Mountain, Wilkes-Barre
  • Oil City Health and Rehab, Oil City
  • The Gardens at Wyoming Valley, Wilkes-Barre
  • Rose City Health and Rehab, Lancaster
  • Gardens at Blue Ridge, Harrisburg
  • Uniontown Health and Rehab, Uniontown
  • Beaver Valley Health and Rehab, Beaver
  • Beaver Elder Care, Aliquippa
  • The Grove at Washington, Washington

Contact: Karen Gownley, karen.gownley@seiuhcpa.org or 717-805-6070

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