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It’s Time to Move Forward

As a lifelong Republican from a small town in Pennsylvania, I know how tense and exhausting this election has been for millions of Americans like me.  I’m a lab technician processing COVID tests at a small rural hospital, and what I want more than anything right now is to move forward and focus on the crises at hand. 

Americans came out to vote in record numbers this year. Some of us voted one way, some another. But I know I speak for a lot of healthcare workers when I say, we didn’t really vote for a person. We did our best to vote for our own future. A future where we can make ends meet, where we can get and give the care everyone needs to be healthy, and where we can figure out how to deal with COVID and allow our friends and neighbors to get back to work, safely.  I happen to believe that no matter where we’re from or what political party we belong to, we can all agree that’s what we want for our families. 

There’s a lot to do, so it’s time for all of us — and all of our elected officials, no matter what party — to get to work.

In Pennsylvania we have now experienced the largest one-day increase of COVID-positive cases, bringing our statewide total to over 367,000 cases and over 10,000 deaths. Nationally, we have lost over 271,000 Americans and experts are calling the next several months “the darkest days of the pandemic.” As an essential healthcare worker, I worry what that will look like for my small community hospital and everyone who lives here. I am so worried for our small businesses. We need to get this virus under control, and we need to move forward together with every newly elected leader for solutions and strategies that protect us and save lives.

At the same time, we must also work toward the economic wellbeing of every American family. COVID has caused a recession like we haven’t seen since the Great Depression. More hardworking people are losing their jobs, struggling to feed their kids, and going into debt just for the bare necessities, while the wealthiest have remained unaffected and even gotten significantly richer.  The higher your economic status, the better equipped you are to thrive through a pandemic because you can buy all the supplies you need and take time off to quarantine.  Essential workers didn’t have that luxury. Hazard pay was rare and did not last, and too many in power took CARES Act money instead of passing it along to frontline workers or buying PPE. As a proud union member, I want those we elected to make sure it’s easier – not harder – for every worker to form their union to demand fair wages and safe working conditions. It’s the only way to rebuild our Middle Class and succeed as one nation.

The basis of our democracy is that we pick our leaders, and the American people have spoken. The basis of our society is that after the election we all focus on what common Pennsylvanians need. Let’s put aside the politics and move forward and start the next chapter.

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We Remember Our Sister in Power, Union Leader Josie Belice

It’s with great sadness that we announce the recent passing of our sister, Josie Belice, to whom we owe a great debt. Her drive and commitment to workers’ rights during the early days of our union were an inspiration to all who knew her.

Josie Belice, union leader and inspiration.

Josie Belice, union leader and inspiration.

Josie was an instrumental leader and activist from the Beverly Manor of Monroeville, Pa. She was the longest-term employee at the facility and one of the key members in the original organizing campaigns for both the Service & Maintenance and LPN units there in 1986 and at Fayette Healthcare Center in Uniontown, Pa. 

Josie testified about conditions and worker treatment at Beverly Manor, a nursing home owned by the nation’s largest for-profit chain — Beverly Enterprises, at a hearing before the U.S. Senate in 1992 on the “Decline of Labor Union Membership.” Josie told Senators:

“During the organizing drive, the harassment was constant. Union supporters like me were given poor evaluations. They said we couldn’t get along with our fellow workers. They even used the patients against us. One time, I was assigned to take care of 29 patients by myself. This was a skilled nursing floor, meaning that the patients were totally dependent on me for their basic needs. On the final hour of my shift, I was told to wash the faces and hands of all 29 residents, dry them, have them dressed in robes and slippers, and sitting up ready for breakfast. Then I had to strip all 29 beds. I worked hard and nearly completed the whole assignment. When my friend showed up for the next shift, I started to cry when I saw her. Beverly wrote me up for overreacting.”

Josie and her coworkers on strike in 1996.

Josie and her coworkers on strike in 1996.

In 1996, when SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania was still known as SEIU 1199P, Josie and her coworkers led a historic three-day strike at Beverly Manor. The nursing home responded by replacing all 500 striking workers. 

But Josie and other member leaders stood together, protested, and filed lawsuits to reinstate their coworkers in what would be the largest unfair labor practice case against any company in the US. A year later, a federal court ordered Beverly to reinstate all 500 workers and management and the union agreed to a new four-year contract. Then, in 2004, the union and Beverly launched a groundbreaking partnership that gave hundreds of workers the freedom to form their union without fear of reprisal or intimidation.

Josie continued to play a key role at the Monroeville Chapter and with the statewide leadership, inspiring others with her dedication to her fellow healthcare workers and the residents in her care. She will always be remembered as a true leader in the labor movement and a fundamental example of the power of the worker when they stand together in a union.

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DePasquale Fights For Everyone, No Matter Their Condition

Over the last seven months, I have witnessed firsthand the importance of electing someone to Congress who will fight not only for affordable healthcare and coverage for pre-existing conditions, but for the dignity of all humans, no matter their condition. 

I live in Harrisburg, and spend my days as a home care worker looking after my brother Craig, who has autism and Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic condition characterized by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness that has left him unable to walk and weighing only 70 pounds. His condition requires 24-hour care from me and a rotating group of six other caregivers. Getting involved with my union, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), has been my one saving grace, giving me the opportunity to help people in a similar situation.

Recently, Craig’s insurance company cut more than 40 hours a week of care, meaning that despite being saddled with my medical bills and expenses from my own pre-existing conditions, I have no choice but to care for Craig for free. Every day I wake up in fear, feeling helpless in the hands of our insurance companies.

I have also been denied coverage for life insurance and other benefits due to my pre-existing conditions, and as the Supreme Court case on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) looms on November 10th, I constantly worry about how rollbacks to the law would make it impossible for me to care for Craig, myself, and my two children who both have special needs.

And I am not alone. The pandemic has left the more than 100,000 home care workers in Pennsylvania without the support to do our jobs safely, and our elected officials have failed to provide home care agencies the equipment or funds they so desperately need. So many of us didn’t choose this profession, but have had no choice but to put our lives on hold to care for loved ones and stay in quarantine until there is a working vaccine.

I grew up surrounded by politics and was dismayed seeing partisan infighting and opportunistic politicians. However, as I get older and witness how personal issues like healthcare and human rights are, I gain renewed hope from leaders that have deep empathy for others and a fierce desire to work together to create meaningful change. 

One of those leaders is Eugene DePasquale, the Democratic candidate challenging incumbent Scott Perry to represent Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District. He understands the challenges families like mine and yours face because he’s lived them. His youngest brother was diagnosed with (and later passed away from) muscular dystrophy and his family struggled after being denied coverage and medical bills piled up. That’s why he supports a public option that builds on and expands the ACA, as well as automatic enrollment into Medicaid for people who cannot afford insurance.

By contrast, his opponent Perry voted to gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions by voting twelve times to repeal the ACA and has offered no health care plan to replace it. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare even said that he’s voted for plans that would leave the disabled “hostage to the whims of private insurance companies.”

For my family and so many others, this election is a matter of life or death. We have a choice between Eugene DePasquale, who has made affordable healthcare and protections for pre-existing conditions a pillar of his campaign, or Scott Perry, who has voted to rip away people’s healthcare without hesitation. The choice could not be clearer. That’s why I urge you to join me in voting for Eugene, who will fight for us, no matter our condition. 

Hillary is a single mother and SEIU member living in Harrisburg, PA, where she cares for her brother Craig, who has autism and muscular dystrophy.

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President of SEIU Healthcare PA’s Statement on Shootings in Dayton and El Paso

Healthcare workers across Pennsylvania mourn with friends and family in Dayton and El Paso, communities ripped open by dual mass shootings.

We know that in two unrelated attacks separated by a few hours, a young man entered a Texas Walmart with an assault rifle, killing twenty and injuring at least twenty-six, and not long after a gunman killed nine people and wounded twenty-seven outside a bar in Ohio

Since the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, our country has experienced 2,191 mass shootings. Already this year, there have been 251 mass shootings, more mass shootings than days so far in 2019. The United States is the only developed country in the world that experiences such a contagion, known as stochastic terrorism: individually unpredictable mass shooting events connected in a predictable, reiterating pattern through mass media and social media.

As healthcare workers, we share a mission to care for our communities. We look after people in need, we treat the symptoms, and we take on the underlying causes of disease.

Now, we are called to respond to a rapidly spreading illness, mass shootings that are eating away at our society.

Minutes before the shooter opened fire in the El Paso Walmart, a manifesto of anti-immigrant white power ideology appeared online. Like the murderer of eleven Jews at prayer in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last year, the El Paso gunman planned and articulated his violence as a defense of whiteness against race mixing and immigrant invasion.

President Donald Trump bears unique responsibility for raising up this kind of hate. No other President in modern times has used the bully pulpit of the Oval Office to echo white power messages.

Gun violence has a direct bearing on declining life expectancies for working class people in the United States. White, black, and brown families all suffer when they lose loved ones in shootings. Yet in rallies and social media messages, President Trump continues to blame people of color and immigrants for our problems. At a time when our communities cry out for healing, President Trump is betting on racial hatred and division to drive us apart so he and his wealthy supporters can continue to enjoy privilege and power.

Too many politicians are busy looking for ways to deny the underlying reality of mass shooting contagion. It is true that our country needs investment in mental health care. However, the common causal link between mass shooting is not mental illness. Alongside white power ideology, the fundamental problem is easy, barely regulated access to automatic weapons. The time for gun safety legislation is long overdue. Yet the majority of the US Senate, under the leadership of Senator Mitch McConnell (R – KY), refuse to bring up gun safety legislation for debate. Senator McConnell offers prayers and praise for law enforcement officers, but he won’t do anything to stem the tide of mass shootings or challenge the President’s dangerous political messages.

To overcome an epidemic, society needs a dynamic, coordinated, and comprehensive response. The contagion of white power violence and mass shootings demands the same determined action. Healthcare workers will play their part, not only by caring for those who are hurt, but by uniting across our diverse communities to change our politics. It’s time to organize and demand a government that will value all our families, white, black, and brown, and that will act decisively to make us safe.

 

Matthew W. Yarnell

President, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania

Mourners pause for a prayer as they gather for a vigil at the scene of a mass shooting, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio. Multiple people in Ohio were killed in the second mass shooting in the U.S. in less than 24 hours. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Mourners pause for a prayer as they gather for a vigil at the scene of a mass shooting, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio. Multiple people in Ohio were killed in the second mass shooting in the U.S. in less than 24 hours. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

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Nursing Home Workers are Fighting to Improve Standards at McMurray Hills Manor

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Caregivers at McMurray Hills Manor are proposing contract improvements to ensure standards of care at their nursing home.

McMURRAY, PA – Caregivers at McMurray Hills Manor held an informational picket outside their nursing home on Monday, June 17, to call on management to respect their work, pay fair wages, and provide more training opportunities so that they can provide the best care to their residents.

MMH Web 4“I love this place, the people I work with, and the residents I care for,” said Mary Ellen Amos, LPN and union chapter president at McMurray Hills Manor. “That’s why I’m out here today – to fight for all of it!

I want to make this a better place to work so that the best people want to work here and stay here. That’s how we provide the best care for the people inside who need us.”

Workers at McMurray Hills Manor are fighting to maintain the high standards of care their residents have come to rely on as they negotiate a new contract with nursing home administrators. At issue are cuts to scheduled wage increases, a draconian attendance policy that penalizes workers for using sick days they have earned, and other issues that would lower job standards at the home. Delivering the best care to residents means having the best staff to deliver that care.

MMH Web 1Today’s picket comes while nursing home care in the state is under increased scrutiny. Earlier this week, a national advocacy group gave Pennsylvania nursing homes a failing grade, ranking the state 46th for care.

That’s why nursing homes like McMurray Hills Manor should be investing in their facilities and their workers, not making cuts and creating policies that drive down job standards.

“If the administration doesn’t start thinking about how it can respect us and invest in us then we aren’t going to be able to hire the new people we need,” continued Amos.

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Healthcare Worker-Endorsed Candidates Win Big Across PA!

We did it! We helped a slate of absolutely incredible candidates win across Pennsylvania. We turned up and knocked on doors, made phone calls, and turned out hundreds of voters across the state.

Stanley ElectionsAll of our hard work ensured that elected leaders like Amanda Green-Hawkins, Deborah Gross, Corey O’Conner, Chelsa Wagner, Michael Lamb, Jim Kenney, Helen Gym, Isaiah Thomas, Cherelle Parker, Mike Morill, and Pam Harbin will be fighting for healthcare access, supporting strong unions and fair contracts, and working towards overall better lives for people all across the Commonwealth.

I am bursting with pride because we helped make this happen! I love the feeling of coming together and really making a difference, and that’s what keeps me turning out early on Saturday mornings to talk to my neighbors and calling other union members about candidates who will fight for us. I know that I’m not doing this alone and that I’m working alongside other workers who want to make a difference. Every time I volunteer, I’m reminded of the collective struggle that my fellow union members are working towards across the state.

Electing these candidates means that we have eleven more elected officials fighting with us. I’m feeling really ramped up and ready to take on the 2019 general election, not to mention the 2020 primaries! I’m getting plugged into SEIU’s Union for All Work, and I’m talking to my friends, family, and fellow union members about how they can get involved too!

If you’re an SEIU HCPA member, you can get involved in our presidential primaries work by emailing us at weborganizer@seiuhcpa.org! Plugging into electoral work has been really empowering for me and I really feel like I’m making my voice heard.

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Union Caregivers Demand Improvements as Nursing Home Care Crisis Worsens

Healthcare workers with SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania took their advocacy to the state capitol to outline issues and make recommendations for improvements to the Pa. House Committee on Aging and Older Adult Services

SEIU Healthcare PA President Matthew Yarnell (left) and CNA Yetta Timothy testified before the PA House Committee on Aging and Older Adult Services today on the care crisis faced by PA's nursing homes, seniors and the disabled.

SEIU Healthcare PA President Matthew Yarnell (left) and CNA Yetta Timothy testified before the PA House Committee on Aging and Older Adult Services today on the care crisis faced by PA’s nursing homes, seniors and the disabled.

HARRISBURG, PA — Nursing home caregivers testified today in front of the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee, describing the worsening conditions of their industry that must change if Pennsylvania wants to properly care for its rapidly-aging population.

“When I walk into my building, here is what I experience,” Yetta Timothy, a Certified Nursing Assistant in the nursing home industry told the committee. “Aides have no real assignment and we run from floor to floor just trying to hold things together. Residents are falling, missing meals, and not being toileted and forced to urinate on the floor. ‘Crisis’ is the right word.”

The scene is the same across Pennsylvania. Nursing home residents statewide are at risk because of chronic short staffing caused by poverty wages, inconsistent management and facility sales, stress, and excessive overtime. Even those who have worked in nursing home care for decades describe a feeling of “hopelessness” and do not know how long they can continue this work.

“There is a staffing crisis that is unlike any the industry has faced in recent memory,” said Matthew Yarnell, President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, which represents over 10,000 nursing home workers across the state. “Providers are struggling to recruit and retain staff because, in our near full-employment economy, workers have options to work in less stressful jobs.”

And yet what the industry needs is more caregivers. Current regulations require that each nursing home resident receives just 2.7 hours of bedside care every day, which is not nearly enough to provide quality care.

In Wednesday’s testimony, Yarnell outlined recommendations aimed to improve care by ensuring the industry can recruit and retain an experienced, qualified workforce. With one of the fastest-growing senior populations in the country, it is critical Pennsylvania has a strong system in place to care for our aging women and men.

These recommendations include:

  • Staffing: Increase the minimum staffing requirement from the current 2.7 hours of care per day to 4.1 hours of care with a minimum amount of nurse aide hours. This is the staffing level recommended by the federal government as the minimum needed to provide adequate care.
  • Funding: Instead of across-the-board Medicaid rate increases, funding increases should reward and incentivize quality care, quality jobs, improved retention, and training.
  • Change of ownership: Transparency for stakeholders to weigh in on potential nursing home buyers, more effective oversight by Department of Health of potential buyers, and requiring new owners to not cut wages, benefits, or staffing standards for a period of time to ensure a smoother transition.

“As long as we allow caregivers to live in poverty, work short staffed, and see their hard-fought standards gutted by new employers, we are in turn failing our seniors and people with disabilities,” concluded Yarnell.

Despite the dire conditions, Timothy declared she would never stop advocating for her industry and the people she cares for.

“I’m staying at this job, but am working double shifts two or three times a week,” said Timothy, who also testified at a hearing on nursing home abuse ten years ago. “And I hope this is the last time I’m ever needed to testify to this committee about the staffing crisis in nursing homes.”

Watch Yetta’s powerful testimony.

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Berks Heim Caregivers Save ‘The Heim’!

Berks Heim_WebLast week, SEIU members at Berks Heim voted to ratify a new contract with Berks County that will save the beloved nursing home (known in the community as “The Heim”) from being sold off for at least the next five years.

Nurses and other caregivers at the Heim have fought for more than a year to oppose the potential sale of their home, attending countless public meetings and hearings and galvanizing public support to block the sale. With this new agreement, the residents of Berks Heim can rest easy that their home will continue to provide the excellent care and service they have come to rely on

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Workers at Somerton Place and Garden Spring Nursing Homes Ratify New Contract

Vita Ratification_032519Workers at Somerton Place and Garden Spring nursing homes have fought for a fair contract for almost a year after the new owner, Vita Healthcare, slashed wages for some workers by up to $6 an hour and drove out of pocket healthcare costs and deductibles up thousands of dollars.

Last week, the workers finally won their fight to force Vita to invest in their nursing homes! Wages have been restored (including a .45 raise for the year) and healthcare costs have been reduced and frozen for the life of the one-year contract! Workers even won double time for Christmas and Thanksgiving, holidays for employee birthdays, send home pay and, most importantly, successorship language to protect workers from these sorts of attacks in the future.

When workers stand together to protect the quality of care for their residents and the quality of jobs at their nursing homes, we all win!

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Vita Nursing Home Workers Honor MLK Day by Pushing for Their Own Economic Justice

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On Monday, January 21, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr Day, Kisha Matthews, a CNA at Garden Spring Center nursing home in Willow Grove, joined hundreds of workers, activists, and community organizers at Bible Way Baptist Church in Philadelphia to talk about how we build power and change in Pennsylvania.

MLK2Kisha shared her story about her nursing home’s new owner, Vita Healthcare. Vita has slashed wages for some workers up to $11k a year and made healthcare benefits unaffordable with $10k deductibles for families and monthly premiums up to $900 at Garden Spring and Somerton Center in Philadelphia, driving down standards at both nursing homes.

Workers are standing up for their residents and fighting back against these cuts. Stand with them. Show your support at bit.ly/vitamlk

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PA Home Care Workers Stand in Solidarity with UK Sisters and Brothers

Philadelphia-area home care workers show their support for home care workers in Birmingham, England.

Philadelphia-area home care workers show their support for home care workers in Birmingham, England.

Home care workers across Pennsylvania are standing up in solidarity with home care workers in Birmingham, England who are on strike after their employer, the Birmingham City Council, proposed making deep cuts to home care services.  Workers are in danger of losing up to $14,000 a year thanks to potentially lost hours.

The union workers have been on strike now for over 30 days and still city council plans to gut a much-needed service to the communities of Birmingham — a service home care workers there take pride in delivering.

In a letter expressing solidarity and support, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania President Matthew Yarnell writes of the plight of home care workers here in our own state.

“Homecare workers in Pennsylvania know what it’s like to be in a long fight for social and economic justice. Across ten years and three successive administrations of Governors, homecare workers have organized to be heard.”   — Matthew Yarnell, President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania

You can read the full text of the letter here.

The Birmingham workers are members of UNISON, Britain’s public sector and healthcare workers’ union. They are receiving support and solidarity from other trade unionists and the public across the globe.

You can show your support for the Birmingham home care workers as they fight to save their jobs and livelihood, and defend public services for Birmingham citizens, by sending an email to UNISON Regional Secretary Ravi Subramanian at R.Subramanian@unison.co.uk or writing to the UNISON branch office at UNISON, 19th Floor, McLaren Building, 46 The Priory Queensway, Birmingham B4 7LR UK

For more information about the Birmingham home care workers and their fight go to www.facebook.com/birminghamunison.

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Hospital and Long Term Care Workers Celebrate New Contracts for the New Year

As 2018 winds down, healthcare workers across PA are celebrating with new contracts that will take them and their facilities into a better future.

Easton Hospital Techs Bargaining Committee.

Easton Hospital Techs Bargaining Committee.

Easton Hospital Techs ratified a new contract as December came to a close. Despite a difficult round of bargaining, Easton techs stood together and were able to negotiate a new contract with across-the-board wage increases, equity adjustments, increased 401k contributions, an additional $10,000 a year for education, and much more!

Special kudos to Easton service workers for their tremendous show of solidarity with their tech sisters and brothers!

Back in October of 2017, LPNs at Belair Health and Rehabilitation Center formed their union with SEIU Healthcare Belair LPNs left in the black shirt is Aaren Acre and on the right in the red shirt is Karen AndersonPennsylvania to stand up for fair pay and fair treatment from management. In December of 2018, those same nurses voted unanimously to approve their very first ever contract!

Their new three-year contract includes annual 2.25% raises, employer-funded pension and 401k, increased paid time off, longevity bonuses, inclusion in the SEIU Health and Wellness Plan and the Training and Education Fund and more! These LPNs fought hard to make sure everyone in the building got something out of this contract and now Belair is offering good jobs to help attract the best candidates to care for its residents.

Back in the beginning of December, union members at Meadowcrest Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center voted unanimously to ratify a new three-year contract with Guardian Elder Care.

The contract includes across-the-board wage increases and shift differentials, a longevity bonus, wage increases for workers who complete skills enhancement classes and much more. Workers at Meadowcrest have even joined the SEIU Pension now! Thanks to some amazing work by the bargaining committee, Meadowcrest will continue to attract a quality workforce to provide the best care possible to residents there.

Congratulations, sisters and brothers from Meadowcrest, Belair, and Easton Hospital!

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“My Disaster Relief Experience.” Nurses share their thoughts after Hurricane Michael.

44184005_10155946513076045_3324734712114577408_nSEIU and the Nurse Alliance have a network in place to send nurses and other first responders to areas hit by emergencies and natural disasters. Working with International Medical Corps, nurses receive urgent deployment opportunities and training to enhance their ability to assist on the ground when disaster strikes.
In October 2018, six SEIU Healthcare PA nurses answered the call – some with only hours’ notice – to assist those in the heavily damaged areas of Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. As nurses so often do, they jumped into action first and figured out their life later.
Two of those nurses, Cathy Stoddart from Allegheny General Hospital and Jeri Torrance from Heritage Valley Beaver, shared their experiences.

 

Cathy Stoddart is no stranger to disaster relief. Here, she shares a journal entry from her latest deployment and some thoughts and 20181016_193434_resizedexperiences from responding to Hurricane Michael:

We arrived in the dark of night to be picked up for transport by a volunteer from International Medical Corps. At 01:20am, I laid my head on a cot sharing a space with strangers and disaster response mobile medical vehicle units in a giant, cold warehouse. A kind woman stated she is our “watchman” and that I could close my eyes knowing I am safe to sleep. I thought to myself, what a wonderful feeling it is to know that I am safe, and I felt sad for the hurricane victims who may not be safe at this moment. I thought how lucky I am, compared to the newly homeless survivors of this monster hurricane that ripped away the lives of some, and left the remnants of other lives mixed together in the rubble. I prayed, “Lord help me to do good in my work today.”

The second shelter I worked in had inhabitants from Panama City, Mexico Beach, Bristol, and Blountstown. I was a night shift nurse during my time there, but people do not sleep. They cry at night, all the worries pushed aside from daily activities of eating and paperwork and the bustle of the shelter are gone. In its place is the loneliness of not being at home with their neighbors, family, pets, and friends. Sitting at a bedside, helping people to reason out the next steps of their lives is heart-wrenchingly hard. Holding hands while you assess your patient and listen to their needs is a repetitive act. All they own is in a grocery bag now, under their bed. I am blessed that my vocation as a nurse can help others in their times of need. I have never felt closer to the art and science of nursing than when I am working in the aftermath of a disaster. I believe it is our duty to respond to disaster as part of nurse ethics and practice. It was my honor and it filled my soul to do so. I believe it is a social justice mission. I am forever grateful for the opportunity.
Cathy Stoddart, MSN, RN


 

IMG_9389I love to help people. I’m pretty sure that’s what I was put on this earth to do. It’s why I became a nurse. It’s also why I am an EMT, Volunteer Fire Chief, and an Instructor. So when I received an email stating volunteers were needed to go to Florida and help our after Hurricane Michael, I jumped at the chance.

I asked my manager if there was any way I could take a week off to make the trip. She was actually very accommodating and was able to rearrange the schedule to take me off for the week. She even asked if she could tell my coworkers why I was going to be off because she was proud of me! So I started on my paperwork – I was so excited! Once I got my paperwork all completed and all I had to do was wait for my deployment day and time, I started getting nervous…I had never done this before! What had I gotten myself into? What was expected of me once I got there? Who would I be working alongside? I can get along with pretty much anyone but the thought of going all alone to a place where I knew not even one person was a little scary!

I flew to Tallahassee early Saturday morning on October 13, 2018. The first person I met when I landed was another nurse who was there for the same reason. Her name was Terry and we hit it off immediately, and that really helped put me at ease.

The first day was spent picking others up at the airport, making up our cots for the night, and a dinner meeting with the whole group to discuss our plans.

The next morning, Terry, Natasha, Jenna and I made a 1 1/2 hour trip to Marianna Florida to help our in the Special Needs shelter they had put in the high school. We went to work and I concentrated on the tasks. Each client was to have vitals each shift, (12 hour shifts). We assisted them with appointments with FEMA, helped them shower, served them meals, and pretty much attended to whatever they needed. If a client was out of medication, we sent someone to a pharmacy about an hour away to get them refilled. There was also plenty of time spent sitting with the client and just listening to them tell their story, which they needed to tell.
One gentleman, who was brought in to our shelter, said he had left home without his medications. Our logistics people got his address from him and left to go get his medications for him. They returned about 2 hours later, looking totally dejected. They found the mans mailbox, but didn’t see the house . So they went to his neighbors house and she told them where it was. They looked, but the house was completely gone. They never did find anything other than his mailbox. But these people were absolutely amazing! Many of them lost everything they had and the rest lost most of what they had. But they were smiling! All their worldly possessions were sitting in garbage bags or boxes under their cot, and they were making new friends at the shelter!!!
One elderly lady noticed I had been fairly busy and she didn’t see me eat lunch (I had snuck to the break room and ate quickly) and OFFERED ME HALF OF HERS!! She lost everything she owned. She had no house. No possessions except a few clothes and small items. And she wanted to give me her food! Those wonderful people really helped to put things into perspective for me.

The second day there, our team leader was reassigned to another area and the remainder of the team voted me as the new Team Lead – this was my first time ever in this type of situation and they wanted me to lead – I just didn’t want to let them down! We worked so well together though that it wasn’t hard at all. You would have thought we had all known each other and worked together for years, but we had only known each other 2 days!!!! The teamwork was incredible!

When I got home the following Saturday, I had such mixed emotions. I felt wonderful about the week I had spent helping the Florida clients, but I almost felt lost without my team…we had all really bonded and it’s almost heartbreaking leaving them. We had all exchanged phone numbers and for the first few weeks after coming home we were in touch everyday. It had weaned off some now, but we still say hello now and then. My biggest worry about doing this work again is that I don’t see how I could possibly have a better team next time. We were perfect together. A bunch of complete strangers came together and made it happen and managed to laugh at times. I miss them. I miss them a lot.
Jeri Torrance, RN, Heritage Valley Beaver

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LVHN-Pocono gets an A!

LVHN - Poconos 2018 WEB

Kudos to Lehigh Valley Health Network Pocono members for their efforts and the countless hours committed to helping their hospital achieve and maintain an A rating from the Leapfrog Group!

The Leapfrog Group created the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade survey to be a trusted, transparent, evidence-based tool that is currently used by nearly 2,000 hospitals nationwide who participate in the survey voluntarily.

Thanks to union members’ strong collective bargaining, they achieved monetary recognition for their achievement —  members will receive bonuses in the amount of $150-$200.

Union members at LVHN – Pocono continue to remain committed to making sure their hard work and commitment to our patients and their hospital are rewarded.

 

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Pride@Work – PA Names Gov. Tom Wolf ‘Champion of LGBTQ Equality’

The LGBTQ labor group gathered to present PA Governor with an award for his efforts on behalf of the LGBTQ community at large

PaW Wolf Award 1_webPLYMOUTH MEETING, PA – Labor and LGBTQ community leaders gathered Wednesday night at the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 Keystone State (UFCW Local 1776 KS) offices in Plymouth Meeting, PA to honor Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf for his tireless efforts to support the LGBTQ community and present him with the Pride@Work – Pennsylvania Champion of LGBTQ Equality Award.

“This is the first time Pride at Work has ever given such an award and our selection was easy as Governor Wolf has been such an absolutely outstanding advocate for LGBTQ issues,” said P@W-PA Co-President Michele Kessler, Secretary-Treasurer of UFCW Local 1776KS. “LGBTQ Pennsylvanians and their families have never had a stronger ally in Harrisburg.”

Pride@Work – Pennsylvania is a nonprofit organization that represents LGBTQ union members and allies. An officially recognized constituency group of the AFL-CIO, the group organizes mutual support between the organized labor movement and the LGBTQ community to further social and economic justice. Pride@Work boasts more than 20 chapters across the country.

“Governor Wolf has been a champion for the rights of LGBTQ people in Harrisburg since day one,” said P@W Co-President Matthew Yarnell, President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. “As bigoted and intolerant politicians both here in Pennsylvania and across the nation ramp up their attacks the LGBTQ community, Governor Wolf continues to be a last line of defense on our behalf. Thank you, Governor Wolf, for being a true ally.”

Gov. Wolf has repeatedly made headlines as an advocate of LGBTQ issues from his nomination of Dr. Rachel Levine as PA Physician General and Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health, making her the first-ever transgender individual to reach this level of government in Pennsylvania, to the recent creation of the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs, the only one in the nation, designed to coordinate and drive statewide equality efforts.

# # #

Contact: James Myers, SEIU Healthcare PA:  215-479-2213; james.myers@seiuhcpa.org

SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania is the state’s largest and fastest-growing union of nurses and healthcare workers, uniting nearly 45,000 nurses, professional and technical employees, direct care workers, and service employees in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home- and community-based services, and State facilities across the Commonwealth.  SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania members are committed to improving the lives of health care workers` and ensuring quality care and healthy communities and for all Pennsylvanians.

United Food & Commercial Workers, Local 1776 Keystone State is a 30,000 member strong labor union with members across Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia. Representing workers in grocery, retail, packing and processing, cannabis, and more, Local 1776 KS exists to promote equality and inclusivity in the workplace while protecting and improving the rights of working people. 

 

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Workers at Chestnut Hill and Pottstown Hospitals Stand Up to Tower Health’s Unhealthy Proposals and Policies

Workers at Chestnut Hill Hospital

Workers at Chestnut Hill Hospital

On Wednesday, August 22, service and technical workers, maintenance and dietary staff, housekeepers, transporters, nurses and nursing assistants from Chestnut Hill Hospital (CHH) and Pottstown Hospital gathered in front of their respective facilities to deliver a message to the owner of both hospitals — Tower Health. The message?

“We demand respect!”

Workers at both CHH and Pottstown Hospital, have been in contract negotiations for months and have consistently met with unmoving Tower administrators who refuse to compromise on key issues.

One such issue is Tower’s proposed healthcare plan which would force many workers at CHH to travel over 50 miles to see a doctor in-network.

“We live in Philadelphia and my son’s doctor isn’t covered by the Tower plan,” said Venus Russell, a unit secretary at CHH. “We would have to travel to Reading to see a specialist under their plan or else I would have to pay out-of-network prices. I can’t afford that. I don’t know anyone who can.”

“And if we did go to Reading to see a doctor,” Russell continued, “we’d have to take an Uber or a Lyft and that would cost $70 one way. I looked it up. I can’t afford that either.”

Ashantay has lived in Pottstown her whole life and can’t afford Tower’s healthcare for her daughter’s epilepsy.

Ashantay has lived in Pottstown her whole life and can’t afford Tower’s healthcare for her daughter’s epilepsy.

In Pottstown, workers called Tower Health out for its poor treatment of the Pottstown community — most notably in its arranging for the hospital to gain non-profit status from the Montgomery County Board of Assessment Appeals, taking more than a million dollars away from local schools and borough services this year.

But foremost on Pottstown workers’ minds was Tower’s obvious lack of respect for the success Pottstown Hospital has enjoyed for decades before Tower Health purchased it. That success, they say, is all thanks to the people who work there.

“Pottstown Hospital is able to deliver such a high level of care because of the hard work, talent, and skill of the people who work here,” said Terry Flicker, a unit clerk in the hospital’s short procedure unit. “Tower’s proposals cut benefits and incentives making it tremendously difficult to attract and retain the best employees and to keep delivering the quality of care we’re known for.”

Also at issue for both hospitals are Tower’s proposals to cut vacation and sick time benefits, holiday pay, uniform allowances, and other incentives meant to attract and retain a high-quality workforce. These cuts, workers say, amount to Tower disinvesting in staff and short-changing the communities that their hospitals serve.

“This is our hospital,” said Angela Ray, who has worked in the dietary department at CHH for more than 11 years. “It belongs to the people who work here and to the community. We are what makes Chestnut Hill Hospital great.”

Chestnut Hill Hospital CNA Gary Canada speaks to local news about workers' efforts to negotiate a fair contract.

Chestnut Hill Hospital CNA Gary Canada speaks to local news about workers’ efforts to negotiate a fair contract.

Workers from both hospitals said they are willing to do whatever it takes to bargain a fair contract — one that respects workers, acknowledges their contribution to the hospitals’ success and invests in their communities.

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Congratulations Oakmont Center Members!

Oakmont Center Bargaining Committee

Oakmont Center Bargaining Committee

This week, members at Oakmont Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation ratified a new three-year contract with annual raises, payouts on unused sick and vacation time, shift bonuses and more. Workers at Oakmont worked hard to create a strong contract that would ensure their nursing home can attract and retain a high-quality workforce and continue to deliver the best possible care to their residents!
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Lafayette Manor Caregivers Do Whatever It Takes to Improve Care

IMG-1385Lafayette Manor Caregivers Hold 3-day Strike to Improve Resident Care

Frustrated by a revolving door of employees, and the impact it has on resident care, caregivers and service workers at Lafayette Manor in Uniontown held a 3-day strike beginning August 11th. In recent negotiations, management has only offered a ten cent raise, which union members say isn’t enough to stop staff from going to work for other nursing homes or hospitals.

“We have to stop losing good staff. The only way we can provide the best care for our residents, is if we have dedicated staff that are committed to our home,” said Kendra Brady, a Licensed Practical Nurse at Lafayette Manor.

One of Lafayette Manor employees’ chief concerns is staffing levels, with unfilled shifts a common occurrence on weekends. IMG-1413Despite this concern, management has not responded to union proposals designed to help boost staffing.

Beyond addressing staffing, union members have been urging management to involve front-line workers in discussions about the home’s future. Management proposed meeting in November, but workers are eager to jointly develop a plan to get back in the black, and think another three months is too long to wait.

“The staff have a lot to offer, but we need management to respect us, and be willing to hear our input,” said Brady. “Our residents deserve the best care now and we can’t wait another 3 months to address these issues.”

Unfortunately, the financial and staffing challenges at Lafayette Manor are all too common among Pennsylvania nursing homes with high numbers of residents on Medicaid.

“Every day, nursing home workers fight to maintain job and resident care standards after nearly a decade of flat Medicaid funding. Pennsylvania’s long term care system is in need of real, structural reform, starting with more transparency to ensure public dollars are invested at the bedside where they belong. Governor Wolf’s recent 1% funding boost is an important step in the right direction; now we need lawmakers to work together to ensure every nursing home job offers a living wage and every nursing home resident receives the quality care they deserve,” said Matthew Yarnell, President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania.

The striking workers include the nursing home’s Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs), laundry, housekeeping, dietary, and maintenance workers.

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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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