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Oakmont Healthcare Workers Get Big Backpay

Oakmont bargaining committeeHealthcare workers at Oakmont Center for Nursing and Rehab noticed their paychecks were really confusing. Thankfully, one of the employees turned to their union to help get some answers. 

“If it wasn’t for my union, I wouldn’t have even known to call Wage and Hour and fight for the things I fought for,” the worker said.

Wage and Hour did an audit and found the company at fault for not having employees punch in and out for lunches, which affected pay. The company must now pay for those wages going back two years. Some employees will get a check for nearly $2,000!

Congratulations to these workers, who used the resource of their union and proved if you stand up for something and don’t back down, you can win!

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First Hospital Nurses Score Contract Wins With Hospital’s Owner

Nurses at First Hospital Wyoming Valley in Kingston survived months of contentious contract negotiations with Community Health Systems (CHS), the owner of their hospital, and emerged with a victory — a new 20-month union contract!

First Hospital Wyoming Valley Bargaining Committee

First Hospital Wyoming Valley Nurses

Approximately 70 registered nurses had been working without a contract since November 30, 2017. For months, the nurses worked to bring public attention to their dispute, even going on strike in April.

“After several months of negotiations and a one-day strike, my coworkers and I are very pleased to have reached a fair contract with management,” said Katie Laskowski, an RN at First Hospital. “In order to provide the quality care our patients deserve, we need to reduce turnover and increase our ability to recruit skilled nurses. We think this contract is a step in the right direction, and one that will positively impact patient care.”

The new contract includes:

  • A 3% wage increase at ratification and an additional 3% in December;
  • A cap on health insurance increases;
  • A new protocol for staffing floaters;
  • Transparency language on orientation for nurses when hired or transferred between units.

Their contract victory is an example of what union members can accomplish for both healthcare workers and patients when they stand together to demand management work with caregivers, not against them!

 

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PA Workers Respond to SCOTUS Decision: ‘No Court Case Will Stand in our Way!’

Despite ruling in The Janus v. AFSCME case, union members across the nation will redouble efforts to unite more working people in unions, hold politicians accountable for creating good, union jobs.

Heather Frye, RN, UPMC McKeesportThe U.S. Supreme Court today delivered a long-expected decision in the Janus v. AFSCME, a case backed by anti-worker extremists. In response, SEIU members and leaders across PA are voicing their resolve to continue sticking together, uniting more working people in unions and holding politicians accountable for creating more good, union jobs.

“We should always be allowed to fight for changes that improve our nursing homes and resident care without fear of punishment,”  said Stefanie Henry, unit clerk and nursing aide at Westmoreland Manor and member of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. “Working people need more opportunities to join unions, not fewer, and we will not let a court case stand in our way of keeping the middle class secure.”

The Janus v. AFXCME case is the latest in a decade’s long attack by wealthy special interests determined to roll back hard-fought gains by working people through their unions and hurt unions financially. The National Right to Work Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center developed and bankrolled this case, using a single Illinois state worker to front their attacks on union rights for millions. These groups are part of a network of right-wing think tanks and litigation firms funded by billionaires and corporate CEOs who use their massive fortunes to rig the economy by attacking the rights of working people. These groups spent more than $80 million to push the case and are preparing to spend more to create a cheap and pliable workforce in the United States.

“The Court made their decision and so have the members of my union,” said Charnel Brownlee, a school bus driver for the Philadelphia School District and member of 32BJ SEIU. “We are determined to stand strong. We know how the union has benefited us and our families. We’ve been able to support our communities because of our good union jobs. This decision will not deter us.”

The Janus decision sets the stage for nationwide anti-worker policies that have been proven to lower job standards and hurt communities. In states like Wisconsin that already have similar anti-worker legislation on the books:

“Today the Supreme Court came down on the wrong side of history, but we are rising up,” said Karen Sodl, Allentown School District Food Service and President of Local 391A of the Pennsylvania Joint Board of Workers United, SEIU. “No court case, no billionaire, and no propaganda campaign can stop us from coming together in unions to raise wages, improve jobs, and make our communities stronger.”

“Despite today’s decision, our union stands unbroken and unbowed, said Tiffany White,  Philadelphia caseworker and member of SEIU Local 668. “Our members see this decision and the court case behind it for what it is: the latest in a long line of attacks against working people. We know that as long as we stand together, no court case or ruling is going to take away our union.”

“Unions have been under attack for years,” said Gabe Morgan, Vice President, 32BJ SEIU & President of the Pennsylvania SEIU State Council. “Wealthy special interest groups can use their money to try to keep working people back but that only makes us fight harder. Nothing has ever been given to us; we’ve always had to fight. Today’s decision only strengthens our resolve and galvanizes us to hit the streets in mass for the 2018 and 2020 elections to elect candidates that support working people.”

“Our union was formed by workers who chose to stand together to create much-needed change,” said Steve Catanese, President of SEIU Local 668. “The corporate special interests behind the Janus v. AFSCME case expect that this decision will break us. But we’re still here, standing together. We’re not going anywhere.”

“Despite this decision, we still believe America can have a future where people no longer work two or three jobs and still live in poverty, said David Melman, Manager of the Pennsylvania Joint Board. “We’re going to keep standing together to let our elected leaders know that America needs good union jobs.”

“This decision is yet another example of how billionaires rig the system against working people, but SEIU members won’t let the extremists behind this case divide us,” said Mary Kay Henry, SEIU International President. “We will stay united, help working men and women who are fighting to form unions and call on our elected leaders to do everything in their power to make it easier for working people to join together in unions.”

Despite today’s Janus ruling, working people refuse to allow any court case to deny them the ability to care for their families and communities. Pennsylvania SEIU members will be using #Union and #WeRise on social media to show their unity in the face of the Supreme Court’s decision. Working people who are organizing to win their unions are also using the hashtag to publicly call for more good, union jobs.

Even in a hostile, anti-worker environment, unions are currently experiencing a resurgence. Millions of workers have used their power in numbers to raise wages, win affordable healthcare and have a voice on the job. Over the last several years, 20 million workers across the nation have won wages increase as a result of the Fight for $15.

Despite the Janus ruling, Pennsylvania union members will continue organizing in their workplaces and communities, working to strengthen their unions and elect worker-friendly candidates – evident in the recent Conor Lamb special election victory – who have pledged to stand with union workers and middle-class families.

“Despite continual opposition, nurses and healthcare workers have fought for — and won — better standards for themselves and their patients for decades,” said Matthew Yarnell, President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. “Today’s Janus decision will not deter healthcare professionals from working to secure better wages and benefits, safer workplaces and a healthcare system that provides every American with access to quality, affordable care.”

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Nursing Home Workers Are Fighting Extreme Cuts to Wages and Benefits

Vita Healthcare, the new owner of Somerton Center in Philadelphia and Garden Spring Center in Willow Grove, slashed wages and benefits for services workers and introduced a new healthcare plan that drastically raises costs for employees.

Workers at Somerton Center in Philadelphia joined fellow nursing home workers at Garden Springs Center in Willow Grove on Friday in an informational picket to protest wage and benefit cuts by new owner Vita Healthcare.

Workers at Somerton Center in Philadelphia joined fellow nursing home workers at Garden Spring Center in Willow Grove on Friday in an informational picket to protest wage and benefit cuts by new owner Vita Healthcare.

On Friday, June 22, caregivers at Somerton Center in Philadelphia and Garden Spring Center in Willow Grove took to the streets to hold informational pickets in front of their respective facilities. The workers demanded that the new owner of the nursing homes, New Jersey-based Vita Healthcare Group, respect the roles of all workers at both facilities and returns the wages and affordable health insurance the company took from them.

Harry Daniels has worked in housekeeping at Somerton Place in Phila. for over 30yrs and the new owner cut his pay by almost $6/hr.

Harry Daniels has worked in housekeeping at Somerton Place in Phila. for over 30yrs and the new owner cut his pay by almost $6/hr.

Vita Healthcare acquired Somerton and Garden Spring earlier this month and immediately slashed wages for the lowest-paid employees — dietary aides, housekeepers, and laundry workers. Wages for housekeeping and laundry workers are now capped at $12.50 an hour, with dietary workers capped at $12.55. For some employees who had been at their jobs for decades and were making up to $18 an hour, this was a pay cut of about $11,000 a year.

“These wage cuts are insulting and hurtful,” said Anthony Lambert, a housekeeper at Somerton Center. “These wage cuts say, ‘Because you are a housekeeper you are not valuable, you are not respected, you do not deserve fair pay.’ I have worked here for 23 years and know my coworkers and I deserve the higher wages we’ve fought to maintain through our union.”

Joyce Lytes, a worker at Garden Springs Center.

Joyce Lytes, a worker at Garden Spring Center.

“I just don’t know how I will pay for anything with cuts like these,” said Ivorene Walker, a housekeeper at Garden Spring. “I am losing thousands of dollars in earnings and then expected to pay hundreds more for health insurance that I won’t even be able to use if I actually do get sick or hurt.”

Ivorene Walker, a worker at Garden Springs Center.

Ivorene Walker, a worker at Garden Spring Center.

Other changes include Vita Healthcare’s decision to place all employees on a 90-day probation, regardless of how long they have been with the nursing home, essentially making them ‘at-will’ employees. This gives these workers no recourse to challenge unfair termination. Vita Healthcare has already notified several employees that they would not be “re-hired,” offering no clear explanation or advance notice and leaving caregivers uncertain about the security of their jobs and their financial futures.

Vita Healthcare appears unconcerned about how these changes will impact the company’s ability to retain qualified workers in these two nursing homes.

Workers at Garden Springs are fired up about cuts to wages and benefits.

Workers at Garden Spring are fired up about cuts to wages and benefits.

The approximately 200 caregivers at Somerton Center and Garden Spring Center are members of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. The workers are demanding Vita Healthcare honor their union contract and restore living wages and affordable healthcare costs in order to maintain family-sustaining jobs and quality resident care at these nursing homes.

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2,000 Nursing Home Workers Stand Union Strong and Force Golden Living Centers to Pay Them $1.7 Million

Any employee who shows up to a job and puts in a hard day of work should expect to go home with what they earned. But, too often that’s not the case with American companies committing billions of dollars in wage theft each year. This includes stolen tips, stiffing workers on overtime pay, not paying all wages for some of the hours worked, or refusing to pay promised wages. What’s worse is low-income workers are often at the greatest risk for this type of employment abuse.

In 2017, this was the reality for nearly 2,000 nursing home workers in Pennsylvania when their now former employer, Golden Living Centers, attempted to try to get out of paying some of the sick and vacation benefits the workers earned. But through their union, workers stood their ground and fought for what they earned. After over a year of legal proceedings, GLC has agreed to a settlement with SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania for nearly $1.7 million.

“I am proud of what we were able to accomplish because we stood together as union members all across the state,” said Brennan Mills, a CNA at Meadows at West Shore in Camp Hill. “Companies will try to take advantage of workers like us when they get into financial trouble, but because we have a voice through our union, we were able to force GLC to pay us what they owed.”

In 2016 and 2017, GLC sold its portfolio of operations in Pennsylvania while maintaining ownership over the real estate where the facilities were housed. Because GLC failed to sell some of those properties by a certain date, under union contracts, the union contended that GLC was required to pay back the sick and vacation benefits union members had continued to accrue as long as they were GLC employees. An arbitrator agreed with SEIU in December 2017, but GLC appealed that decision in federal court.

So union members fought back, by speaking to the media, signing petitions and calling the GLC headquarters over and over to demand payment.

On April 4, 2018, SEIU met with GLC for a mediation session to try to reach resolution on the nearly $1.8 million owed to its members. Golden Living Centers agreed to pay workers about 89 percent of what they were owed for both sick and vacation time. Workers will receive these payments in three installments, due on or before June 1, 2018, November 1, 2018 and February 1, 2019.

“We are pleased that these hardworking caregivers will finally be compensated by Golden Living Centers for the money they earned,” said Matthew Yarnell, president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. “While we wished GLC would have paid workers 100 percent of what they are owed, we believe this is the best outcome to ensure workers get paid now instead of having to wait potentially for years as the court process dragged on.”

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Geisinger Wyoming Valley RNs Win Strong Four-Year Contract!

GWV Bargaining Committee 2018 Banner

On Thursday, January 31st, Registered Nurses at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center ratified a strong new union contract! The four-year agreement puts in place positive changes to improve bedside care and recruit and retain experienced, skilled nurses.

“It’s a new day for all of us,” said Kim Klinger, who has been a GWV RN since 2003. “This is a great achievement for nurses, our hospital, and all our patients.”

The contract includes:

  • Improved staffing language so RNs have more input into the staffing needs of their patients;
  • Changes to on-call use to prevent nurse burnout;
  • Guaranteed yearly wage increases (3% each year);
  • Better training for RNs who float between departments; and
  • A student loan assistance program for RNs who stay at the hospital more than 10 years.

“Education improvements are going to have a big impact on nurse retention,” said Klinger. “Nurses will come here, stay here, and their skills and experience will benefit our patients.”

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Walking with King

Sanitation workers assemble in front of Clayborn Temple in Memphis, TN, for a solidarity march. On the 53rd day of the Memphis Sanitation Workers' strike, a week after this picture was taken, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel. (Photo courtesy of the Estate of Ernest C. Withers and Panopticon Gallery of Photography, Boston, Mass.)

Sanitation workers assemble in front of Clayborn Temple in Memphis, TN, for a solidarity march. On the 53rd day of the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ strike, a week after this picture was taken, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel. (Photo courtesy of the Estate of Ernest C. Withers and Panopticon Gallery of Photography, Boston, Mass.)

Last Tuesday, January 9, members of the NAACP gathered in Memphis to honor fourteen old men. These were the surviving Memphis sanitation workers of AFSCME Local 1733 who went on strike 50 years ago, fighting for recognition of their union.

In February 1968, two of their fellow sanitation workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, had been crushed to death by a malfunctioning garbage truck. The tragedy provoked 1300 workers to walk off the job. They picketed for over two months, carrying a slogan written in capital letters that inspired a movement: I AM A MAN.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to walk with them, to lift up their struggle, and rally the community to their side. It was there, in Memphis, organizing with sanitation workers two months later, that Dr. King’s life was cut short by a gunman’s bullet. Were he alive today, he would be 89 years old.  

In 2013, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom, SEIU Healthcare PA members joined tens of thousands of citizens to march again in Washington DC and share our dream for a better America - an America where hard-working people are given a fair share of the fruits of their labor.

In 2013, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom, SEIU Healthcare PA members joined tens of thousands of citizens to march again in Washington DC and share our dream for a better America – an America where hard-working people are given a fair share of the fruits of their labor.

Fifty years later, Dr. King occupies a venerated but remote place in our national imagination. He has become an almost universally respected saint whose image graces the National Mall in Washington, DC in the form of a 30-foot high granite statue. Republican and Democratic politicians alike invoke his legacy to this day.

But in 1966, a few short years after the greatest legislative victories of the Civil Rights Movement, polling showed Americans held a negative view of Dr. King by a two-to-one margin. In 1983, during the Congressional debate on creating a national holiday in Dr. King’s memory, North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms accused the dead civil rights leader of “action-oriented Marxism” and other “radical political” views. Under pressure, President Ronald Reagan reversed his opposition and signed the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday bill into law, but refused to rule out that Dr. King might have been a Communist sympathizer.

It should come as no surprise that during his life and for years afterward, the name of Martin Luther King has evoked sharp reactions. Unlike the stone statue saint we know today, the living, breathing King was controversial. He led direct non-violence civil disobedience in the face of armed police, protesting the Jim Crow laws that oppressed black people. He forced elected officials to cast aside political accommodation with racists to enshrine civil rights and voting rights in law. He drew connections between racism and economic exploitation, celebrating union organizing and launching a poor people’s campaign to fight for a redistribution of wealth for the common good. He condemned the US war in Vietnam, even though it cost him the support of the White House and mainstream media.

Dr. King held firm to his principles, pointing the way to a promised land he somehow knew he would never reach in his lifetime. In effect, he signed that union contract for striking Memphis sanitation workers in his own blood.

Leon Davis, founding president of the District 1199 healthcare workers’ union, called on union members not to build monuments to Dr. King but instead to “build the union in his image.” Within a year of the assassination, workers were doing just that. Auto workers in New York and Michigan threatened wildcat strikes if car factories did not give them Dr. King’s birthday as a holiday. 1199 hospital workers in New York City won a King Holiday in their 1969 contract, followed by a similar breakthrough by garment workers. Retail workers and public sector workers drove the campaign for a national King Holiday. Union members wanted Dr. King’s example to be a living legacy, commemorated in a day off from work for all people.  

That legacy feels particularly relevant today because the gains Dr. King won and the values he represented hang in the balance. In his day, Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize in international recognition of his work dismantling racial segregation in the US. Now world leaders are shocked as our President uses the crudest racist language to denigrate people descended from Africa and Latin America and plans the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of immigrants. Dr. King raised his voice against war, but today the White House echoes with threats of “fire and fury” in a horrific nuclear conflict with North Korea. The Trump administration presides over a rollback of civil rights, from voter access to police reform. Dr. King believed that “of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” Yet today, the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion hang in the balance, with economists predicting that millions of Americans will lose health insurance.

The same politicians pushing to limit voting rights and healthcare access are racing to pass “No Rights At Work” laws in state after state, undermining the rights of workers to bargain collectively. Today, just as Dr. King said, “We must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights.” Dr. King’s prescient observation about reactionary politics rings true: “the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature, spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth.”

In the face of so many injustices, the thirty-foot statue on the National Mall will not help us. If we want to overcome in 2018, it is to the living, breathing King, the controversial King, that we must turn. We must follow young black women who lead their communities into the streets in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to confront racism directly. We must stand beside workers who stand up for their rights, like AFSCME strikers at Cedar Haven nursing home in Lebanon County fighting for good jobs and quality care, and SEIU members at Prospect Park nursing home in Delaware County who are picketing in the snow for a fair union contract. We must organize with friends and allies in our communities who share our mission of winning healthcare for all. We must rally with immigrant communities and young people fighting for their own claim to the American Dream. We must register, educate, and mobilize voters to deliver accountability to politicians who profit from white nationalism, warmongering, and corporate greed.

In 1968, Leon Davis got it right. We shall build no monuments but walk with Dr. King in a living, breathing movement, dedicated to reaching what he imagined as “the day when we shall bring into full realization the dream of American democracy, a dream yet unfulfilled. A dream of equality of opportunity, a privilege and property widely distributed. A dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few… A dream of a nation where all our gifts and resources are held not for ourselves alone, but as instruments of service, for the rest of humanity. The dream of a country where every man will respect the dignity and worth of human personality—that is the dream.”

That’s a dream worth living for. And if we dare to organize and hit the streets, Dr. King walks with us.

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PA Workers Defeat ‘Paycheck Deception’

When the PA legislature introduced "Paycheck Deception" legislation in 2014, working people filled the Capitol building and spilled into the streets to protest the anti-worker move by legislators.

When the PA legislature introduced “Paycheck Deception” legislation in 2014, working people filled the Capitol building and spilled into the streets to protest the anti-worker move by legislators.

As 2017 came to a close, working families in Pennsylvania won an important legislative battle and dealt a blow to PA House Speaker Mike Turzai and other anti-worker politicians and provocateurs.

Before legislators left for the holidays in late December 2017, House leaders called for a vote on Senate Bill 166, a piece of legislation they and other anti-worker forces like the Commonwealth Foundation, a right-wing think tank funded by the billionaire Koch Brothers, refer to as “Paycheck Protection.”

More accurately called “Paycheck Deception,” the bill would have prohibited all public employees from deducting their voluntary PAC contributions from their paychecks, in the same way employees can choose to make contributions to other nonprofits and public and private charities.

The measure failed to pass, with a bipartisan block of legislators voting against it, 102-90. Twenty-six GOP legislators joined their Democratic colleagues to strike down this farce of a bill.

More importantly, this victory shows that when we organize across the labor movement, we can bring supporters together from across the aisle to stand up against anti-worker policies and efforts.

Earlier that week, state Rep. Barry Jozwiak was prepared to offer an amendment exempting police, firefighters, and other emergency personnel from the legislation in an effort to sway the support of first responders. But at the request of the Fraternal Order of Police, State Troopers, and Pennsylvania firefighters, Jozwiak withdrew the amendment, leaving emergency responders subject to the bill’s provisions.

All Pennsylvania’s unions in the state, public, and private sectors worked together to defeat the bill — a story of true union solidarity and another step by working people to win back PA in 2018!

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LGAR Workers Ratify Contract, Win $15 an Hour!

LGAR Members_Web

In November, workers at the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic Health & Rehabilitation Center (LGAR) in Turtle Creek, Pa. ratified a new three-year contract by a vote of 34-1!

The contract raises starting rates for Certified Nursing Assistants to $15 per hour and $13 per hour for housekeeping and dietary workers with additional increases over the life of the contract. It also includes longevity increases of up to .90 per hour and triple time for holidays!

Workers at LGAR will sit down with management again in March 2018 to discuss healthcare benefits and inclusion in the Training and Education Fund.

This new contract is an incredible step in improving jobs at LGAR and attracting the best possible candidates to provide the highest quality of care at this historic nursing home. Well done, LGAR workers! Congratulations!

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Union Nurses Help and Heal on Puerto Rico Relief Mission

Union members volunteer in Puerto Rico

Union members volunteer in Puerto Rico

This past summer we all watched as three catastrophic hurricanes hit Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. Millions of Americans struggled to survive and put their lives back together in the aftermath and I knew I wanted to help, but I wasn’t sure how.

When my chapter president told me our national union was looking for nurses to join a relief mission to Puerto Rico organized by labor unions, I jumped at the chance. I had always wanted to contribute my skills and nursing expertise when our union organized trips during other disasters, but with young children at home I hadn’t been able to go. Now that my kids are grown, I felt it was time for me to go.

With the support of my husband, manager and colleagues at Heritage Valley Beaver Hospital, I prepared to leave for Puerto Rico in a matter of days. I left Newark, N.J. on a flight with over 300 union members, all strangers. My colleagues at Heritage Valley Beaver Hospital sent me off with a suitcase bursting with donations of medical supplies, new clothing and toys.

Before we left we were told to expect long days and rough conditions. I knew from watching television news coverage that there wouldn’t be electricity, and communications from the island would be unpredictable at best. Even expecting the worst, I was shocked by the conditions we found there. Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

For a lot of us, losing power briefly can be an inconvenience, but as nurses we know it can be deadly. Patients who rely on dialysis, oxygen or refrigerated insulin simply can’t get by without it. By the time we arrived in Puerto Rico, people living in the small towns and isolated areas outside the capital city of San Juan had been without power for a month with no relief in sight.

Given the confusion on the ground, donations were not always getting to all the people who needed them. One of the nurses on the trip started a Go Fund Me page to raise money for supplies. We all shared it with our friends and families back home and were able to raise $52,000 in just two weeks. We bought water and food wherever we could find it and took it into the small towns and communities outside San Juan.

Getting to those communities was a complicated process. Many roads were impassable due to downed trees and bamboo. The constant rain made everything worse, causing mudslides that washed out roads. Sometimes buses and trucks were no use when trying to reach the people who needed us the most. When that happened, we got out and walked, carrying water, food and medical supplies.Hurricane Maria relief in Puerto Rico 3

I can’t describe the living conditions as anything other than horrendous. In one town we visited, the flood water had reached eight feet and stayed there for a month. This left houses and buildings covered with mold. The flood waters were filled with dead animals, rats, feces and all the bacteria that comes with it. In each town we visited we set up a clinic where we could see patients and provide education, particularly about the importance of drinking clean water. We saw a lot of conjunctivitis, skin and foot infections, leptospirosis, respiratory issues and a few cases of cholera. For people already living in poor health that comes with severe poverty, these kinds of illnesses can be life or death. We did our best to treat those conditions on top of the high rates of diabetes and hypertension people had before the hurricane.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more tired in my life, but I wish we could have stayed longer. The people of Puerto Rico have largely been ignored and they need so much more help. Seeing the immense need, the tears from people who have lost everything, who are doing their best to manage in the face of unbelievable difficulties, makes me so glad I went. And ready to volunteer again in the future.

I went to Puerto Rico on a plane full of strangers, but I came back with a family. I will never forget the relationships I built with other union members from different places, different backgrounds and different jobs by working together to help people who needed us.

As nurses, we have a calling to help and heal. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to do that for our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico. If you would like to help you can donate by clicking here

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Washington County Workers Fight to Protect Good Jobs and Resident Care in Face of Drastic Changes by New Owners

Leann Howell_President at the Washington County Health CenterOn, Thursday, Oct. 5, Washington County Health Center workers called on county commissioners to aid them in pushing back against sweeping changes proposed by Premier, the nursing home’s new owner.

“When we first learned our nursing home was being sold, the county assured us that both job and resident-care standards would not change,” said Alicia Laube, a certified nursing assistant at the center. “But just this week, we learned Premier is looking to slash our wages by $3 an hour and make our healthcare coverage so expensive we can’t afford to even use it. How can we hope to care for Washington County seniors when we will not be able to care for ourselves?”

Washington County Health Ctr3Premier revealed their proposed changes to job conditions a week prior including wage cuts as much as $3 an hour for various departments and increases to healthcare costs of more than 10 times their original cost, making coverage virtually out of reach for employees.

Premier also confirmed plans to outsource management of dietary, laundry, and housekeeping to an outside company, HSG. HSG has asked all existing workers to re-apply for their jobs and refusing to offer details on potential changes to wages, benefits, or job conditions.

“The new owners have kept us completely in the dark about possible changes to our jobs,” said Mary Glendenning who works in the dietary department and offered testimony at today’s hearing.  “They seem unconcerned by the overwhelming anxiety they are causing the workers. We need answers – our jobs and our futures hang in the balance.”

The final sale date was originally slated for October 5 but has since been pushed back to October 20. With the extended deadline, workers are hoping county commissioners will intervene and help workers push back against the most extreme proposals.

Zelda Pirt_Washington County Health Ctr“We need our county commissioners to demand Premier and HSG honor their commitment to the workers who have dedicated their lives to Washington County and its residents,” said Zelda Pirt, who also works in the dietary department and offered testimony at today’s meeting. “We need our commissioners to hold the new owners accountable to maintaining good jobs and the type of resident care and services our seniors have come to expect.”

Despite the unreasonable changes proposed by Premier and HSG, union leaders and management are in the process of bargaining a new union contract for the 250 workers at Washington County Health Center.

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Washington Health System – Greene Workers Ratify New Three-Year Contract

Washington Green Workers BannerOn Oct. 2, workers at Washington Health System – Greene in Waynesburg, Pa. ratified a new three-year contract including annual wage increases, expanded bereavement leave to grandparents, stepparents, and stepchildren, and job protection language.

Despite considerable pressure from Washington Health System management, the bargaining committee was able to stop efforts to take away vacation days and kept the steep healthcare premium hikes proposed to 3%.

Throughout this process, chapter leaders worked hard to ensure that jobs at Washington Health System – Greene will attract the best candidates and patient care would continue to be a priority and of the highest quality.

Congratulations Washington Health System – Greene workers!

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Janus v. AFSCME: the latest attack on unions, and how we can win

BrendaFields-RandRThe U.S. Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments for Janus v. AFSCME on February 26. This law will dismantle the labor movement in our country.

For decades, the courts have followed a simple principle: if you’re a government employee covered by a union contract, but you don’t join the union, you have to pay a fair share fee for the benefits of the contract. No one gets a free ride.

If the Supreme Court rules against unions in Janus v. AFSCME, these fair share fees would become illegal for government employees, and they could get all the benefits of a union contract without contributing.

As a healthcare worker and elected Executive Board member,  I want to be clear about what the anti-worker extremists are trying to do to us with this lawsuit. This Janus lawsuit is intended to fatally weaken unions and make it harder for workers to win good contracts. They want to divide us, make it harder to pool our resources, and limit our collective power. By weakening unions, they aim to concentrate power and wealth in the hands of the wealthiest Americans.

We know when we stick together in a union, we can raise wages and improve benefits and also raise standards across the healthcare industry for our patients. Waiting to take action until after the Court’s decision is too late. By re-committing to unity in our union today, we can fight for what’s fair… and we can win. Here’s what you can do:

  • Re-commit and Re-sign every member in every facility: When all union members sign new union cards, we send a strong message that we are united and committed to improving our workplaces for the people we care for.
  • Embrace every new worker: Let’s make sure everyone understands that their union contract protects their rights, guaranteed raises, and provides valuable resources if problems arise.
  • Make our laws reflect our priorities: Anti-worker politicians want to weaken our power to improve jobs and the care we provide. We need to learn where the candidates stand, and support elected leaders like Governor Tom Wolf and Senator Bob Casey who stick up for healthcare workers.

Brenda Fields
Unit Secretary, Washington Hospital

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Healthcare Workers Are Empowered!

Two women at a podium talking

Tashia Frazier and Danielle Bedford from Saunders House explain how they were able to reduce falls in their nursing home and save lives.

Last week, hundreds of healthcare workers from our union came together in Lancaster to be empowered and learn vital skills at the SEIU Healthcare PA 2017 Leadership Assembly. This year’s theme: “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Acts,” emphasizes the ability for each of us to change lives through our union and as healthcare workers.

We heard from Tashia Frazier and Danielle Bedford, CNAs from Saunders House, who used their union power to nearly eliminate resident falls by changing how they do their work. Tashia and Danielle are saving the lives of residents at Saunders, and they are also saving money — money that can be used to achieve more of their goals. And we heard the incredibly moving story of Michelle Schwartzmeier, whose daughter Casey died of an opioid overdose after months of struggling to get clean because her insurance “wasn’t good enough.”

“I’m going home with so much knowledge and new ideas for our chapter. We love the idea of having a welcome letter to new employees with pictures of all the union delegates, and also handing out a letter with information on labor-management, encouraging people to come to a delegate with their ideas.” -Gary Canada with Valerie Artis, Chestnut Hill Hospital

“I’m going home with so much knowledge and new ideas for our chapter. We love the idea of having a welcome letter to new employees with pictures of all the union delegates, and also handing out a letter with information on labor-management, encouraging people to come to a delegate with their ideas.”
-Gary Canada with Valerie Artis, Chestnut Hill Hospital

As healthcare workers, we are facing big challenges on the job and in our communities. But the 500 member leaders who came together in Lancaster are committed to doing what it takes to tackle those challenges and improve the lives of healthcare workers and the people we care for. We proved that when we marched on Rep. Smucker’s office to call him out on his efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and take away healthcare for millions.

Now we’re carrying our commitment home with us. Together, we’re going to:

  • Re-commit and Re-sign every member in every facility: When all union members sign new union cards, we send a strong message that we are united and committed to improving our workplaces for ourselves and our patients, residents, and consumers.
  • Embrace every new worker: Every new worker needs a “hug” and a warm welcome into our union! Let’s make sure everyone understands that their union contract protects their rights, guarantees raises, and provides valuable resources if problems arise.
  • Build strong chapters: We will improve communication so our coworkers know where to go for help and see examples of how our contracts are protecting us. Enhanced training for chapter leaders will enable us to defend the rights in our union contract, and achieve better, stronger contracts in the coming years.
  • Make our laws reflect our priorities: Anti-worker politicians want to weaken our power to improve the care we provide and our jobs. We need to learn where the candidates stand, and support elected leaders like Governor Tom Wolf and Senator Bob Casey who stick up for healthcare workers. You can watch Governor Wolf’s message here.

As a former nursing home worker, I know how committed everyone one of us is to providing the very best for those we care for, even in the most difficult circumstances. I also know that when we stand together, we can build better contracts, improve care, and lift up all workers. Together, we will rise!

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Mazzoni Health Center Workers Vote Overwhelmingly to Join SEIU Healthcare PA!

On Wednesday night, September 13th, a strong majority of Mazzoni Health Center front-line staff voted to join together with SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania to establish their union.

IMG_8010“This is a milestone in our struggle to make Mazzoni Center the agency deserved by LGBTQIA communities and the city of Philadelphia,” said Riley Marcano, Case Manager, “We are proud of the grassroots leadership that got us this far, and are deeply grateful to the community members, patients, clients, and city officials who stood shoulder to shoulder with us and offered us support.”

The 91 staff members of the Mazzoni Center first presented a petition to form their union on August 15 in order to address long-standing organizational mismanagement, unfair hiring and firing practices, staffing turnover and a lack of input in policies and decisions that impact work conditions and client care.  

“From the outset, our goal has been to work collaboratively with management to have a seat at the table and a voice in decision-making,” said Michelle Lindstrom, a medical case manager at the center. “We are here to represent the needs of the communities we serve, not just our own.”

“Our months-long struggle was rewarded today with a resounding yes vote to join SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania and we are determined to ensure that the lives of LGBTQIA workers and people are valued,” she said.

Over the course of workers’ efforts to organize, hundreds of patients and community members offered their support – including city officials like Helen Gym, Amber Hikes, Rich Lazer and Mayor Kenny – who wrote letters of encouragement, and demonstrated in the pouring rain to give workers the boost needed to cross the finish line.

At a time when the rights of working people and union members are under unprecedented attack at a state and federal level. The Mazzoni Center workers’ victory is one for the entire city of Philadelphia and for healthcare workers everywhere.

“Today we celebrate,” said Lindstrom. “Tomorrow the hard work and healing begins.”

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Workers at Mazzoni Center Fight For Union Recognition

On Thursday, August 10th, staff of the Mazzoni Center, Philadelphia’s LGBTQ-focused healthcare center and HIV clinic, confronted its board of directors and demanded recognition of their union.

Mazzoni_5_webThe staff have been organizing for months to rid the center of corruption and abuse and return to the community values upon which the center was built.

The morning of the 10th, a small delegation of workers met with Mazzoni Center CEO Stephen Glassman to respectfully give him notice that they would be demanding recognition of their union at a public community forum being held by Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs to address the alleged corruption and abuse.

Glassman expressed support for their choice, but wanted workers to give the board a week before moving forward. By the end of the day, management at the Mazzoni Center was already holding anti-union meetings. That did not deter the organizing committee.

That night at the public forum, after the community had a chance to speak out, a group of Mazzoni Center workers read a powerful statement announcing they would be joining together through SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania to form a union. The crowd assembled erupted in cheers! It was a moving scene.

Glassman responded that going forward they would involve the National Labor Relations Board. Mazzoni Center workers are headed to an election hopefully in the next few weeks.

You can express your support for these brave workers by signing their online petition at bit.ly/MazzoniSupport and sharing their story on social media

Patients and community members who have concerns about Mazzoni Center can contact the Board of Directors at board@mazzonicenter.org.

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Easton Hospital Workers Reap Benefits of Wage Review Committee

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Sixty-one Easton Hospital workers will enjoy raises this month, thanks to the wage review committee created by their contract!

The committee met earlier this month and agreed to raises for the designated employees ranging from $.05 to $3.31. These raises will be effective retroactively to May 1, 2017. The committee also agreed to raise the starting rate and per diem for phlebotomists, patient care techs, ER techs, mental health workers, transporters, and pharmacy techs.

This is a tremendous victory for Easton Hospital workers and the result of months of work and persistence by our bargaining committee. Easton Hospital’s human resources director based her calculations on a variety of sources including figures from our proposal at bargaining, each worker’s years of experience, evidence of competitors’ rates gathered by workers, and a market wage analysis.

Many Easton Hospital workers spoke about how they and their families were struggling financially. The new raises will help a great number of these workers become more financially stable and better provide for their families.

When we fight, we win!

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Spruce Manor Members Stand Up for Their Rights and Their Residents

Spruce Manor_webOn Thursday, August 3rd, members at Spruce Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Berks County held a “Respect”-themed sticker day and march on the boss. They organized the march to demand:
  1. Respect for the contract and our members;
  2. An answer to all outstanding grievances;
  3. Respect for their union; and
  4. Reinstatement for two union delegates that had been previously terminated.
Workers at Spruce Manor felt the new administrator and the director of nursing had not been following every aspect of the contract and the grievance process and were determined to send a message that they would stand together until they are treated with the respect they deserve.
We’re proud to stand with Spruce Manor workers as they fight for their rights and their residents.
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We Need a Budget That Works For All of Us

Andrea Harrington, Home Care Worker, addresses hundreds of Pennsylvanians who rallied in Harrisburg for a People's Budget.

Andrea Harrington, Home Care Worker, addresses hundreds of Pennsylvanians who rallied in Harrisburg for a People’s Budget.

My name is Andrea Harrington. I’m a home care worker and I’m also a minister.

As a home health care worker, I have to ensure that my two consumers are able to get out of bed, get something to eat, live their life. My one client who is a paraplegic can’t do a lot of these things for himself. He has some mobility once he gets to his chair, but he can’t get there himself. My hands, my feet, they are his to live his life when I’m at work.

My granddaughter Milan is on dialysis. When she comes from dialysis three times a week she has no energy. She can’t sleep, wash dishes, cook. Sometimes I have to help her up the stairs to get to her room. Without some help getting her pills or her insulin, she won’t even be strong enough to go to dialysis.

All that to say — I work hard and I do an important job.

I get paid weekly, and when I get $475 in a week, well, that’s only half my mortgage payment. So two weeks of my pay goes right to my mortgage. That leaves me with $950 for everything else.

Most months, I’ve got about $200 left to buy food. And that’s for four people.

I can’t even afford to pay my health coverage, so I have to rely on Medicaid for my own coverage. But they’re talking about cutting that by $200 million!

I’m asthmatic and I have another set of chronic, life-threatening health issues that I’d rather not discuss. I don’t make enough on $10 an hour to afford the medication I need if I had to pay it out of pocket.

So let’s put it this way, if I don’t get my medication, I will die. So now you’re telling me with this cut to Medicaid that my life is not worth anything, because you want to give tax cuts to corporations and the super rich.

And this isn’t just about me. It’s about my consumers too.

If they can’t depend on me and on my health, they can’t plan their lives. They can’t live their fullest lives, because they can’t count on me being healthy enough to be there to help them get out of bed in the morning.

If I lose my coverage, I’d end up being another consumer and another burden. Why not keep my coverage so I can get the medication I need and help them get the care they need?

It’s the right thing to do, and frankly, it would save the state more money.

But here’s the thing, we can talk about makes sense or what would save money. But that’s ridiculous.

We live in the richest nation in the history of the world, and I think it’s an atrocity that if I work 78 hours in a week — not two weeks, in a week — that I have to stand in a welfare office and ask for Medicaid. I think it is an atrocity that all of the taxes that I pay, as hard as I work, I have to stand in the hollows of this hall and beg you not to kill me.

Andrea Harrington shared her story with hundreds of Pennsylvanians rallying in Harrisburg on June 5th for a state budget that puts people before corporations — a People’s Budget.

 

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A Message from SEIU Healthcare PA President Matt Yarnell About the AHCA

Good Afternoon SEIU Healthcare,

I’m writing because I’m deeply saddened… and incredibly angry.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted narrowly (217-213) to pass ​an unpopular and dangerous healthcare bill that threatens our families, our patients, and our jobs. The so-called American Health Care Act is packed with measures that will make getting care harder, more expensive and in some cases impossible. The AHCA hits seniors, people with disabilities, kids, and people who aren’t rich.

Here’s what the AHCA does. The bill…

  • strips pre-existing conditions protections for everyone, wherever your insurance comes from;
  • reinstates lifetime caps and annual limits;
  • guts Medicaid by nearly a trillion dollars, the money our nursing homes and home care programs rely on;
  • ends Medicaid expansion, endangering over 700,000 Pennsylvanians
  • punishes people between 50 and 64 years old by charging them five times what younger consumers pay for their premiums
  • will result in job loss for healthcare workers

What does Congress plan to do with all the funds that aren’t being used to keep people well?

They want to give it in tax breaks to insurance CEOs, pharmaceutical companies, and America’s richest billionaires

This legislation is so bad that Congress actually exempted itself from its provisions! That’s right. Under the AHCA, you and I will lose protections for our pre-existing conditions – but our members of Congress will not!

Because of all of hard work and organizing four Republicans in PA stood with us. Reps. Costello, Fitzpatrick, Meehan, and Dent all did the right thing and opposed this bill. Those votes only happened because of our rallies, phone calls, letters to the editors, postcard drop-offs and the stories we shared. This experience and energy is what we will take with us into the next round of the fight as we continue to speak out for affordable, quality care for ALL of us, not just Congress.

And the fight is far from over. The bill must go to the Senate, then to conference, and then back to the house. The voices of nurses and healthcare workers will be critical in determining what happens next.

Please help to launch the next phase of our work by taking a minute right now to call your Congressman to let him know how you feel about the vote he cast today. 

If you’re not sure who your Rep is, use this link, enter your zip code, and find out

http://www.house.gov/htbin/findrep
ROLL CALL:

VOTED NO on stripping us of care, costing us jobs, and rewarding insurance companies – Please call to THANK YOU!
PA 01 Bob Brady           (202) 225-4731
PA 02 Dwight Evans      (202) 225-4001
PA 06 Ryan Costello      (202) 225-4315
PA 07 Pat Meehan         (202) 225-2011
PA 08 Brian Fitzpatrick   (202) 225-4276
PA 13 Brendan Boyle     (202) 225-6111
PA 14 Mike Doyle           (202) 225-2135
PA 15 Charlie Dent        (202) 225-6411
PA 17 Matt Cartwright    (202) 225-5546

VOTED YES to strip of us of care, cost us jobs, and give tax breaks to insurance companies – Please call to express disappointment and outrage!

PA 03 Mike Kelly             (202) 225-5406
PA 04 Scott Perry            (202) 225-5836
PA 05 Glenn Thompson        (202) 225-5121
PA 09 Bill Shuster            (202) 225-2431
PA 10 Tom Marino            (202) 225-3731
PA 11 Lou Barletta           (202) 225-6511
PA 12 Keith Rothfus         (202) 225-2065
PA 16 Lloyd Smucker        (202) 225-2411
PA 18 Tim Murphy            (202) 225-2301

Let’s keep up the pressure. Failure is not an option. We may have lost this battle, but we can win the war.

Yours in Solidarity,

Matt Yarnell
President
SEIU Healthcare PA

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