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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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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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Healthcare Workers to Smucker: “Stand up for US, Not Corporations!”

Press Release from SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania
Friday, Sept. 15, 2017

Nearly 500 healthcare workers, area residents, and community allies converged at U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker’s Lancaster office on Friday to demand he represent their interests in Washington.

LANCASTER, PA – Hundreds of healthcare workers from across Pennsylvania were joined by community members and grassroots organizational allies on Friday as they took to the streets of Lancaster to demand U.S. Representative Lloyd Smucker support the interests of working families over corporations, big banks, and industrial polluters.

Those attending the action cited protecting middle-class jobs and workers’ rights to organize, justice for America’s “Dreamers” (young people who have received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA status), protecting the Affordable Care Act, and expanding access to healthcare as key issues for working women and men of Pennsylvania.

“Being a part of a union is a protection against big business,” said Stephanie Cole, a Lancaster-area Certified Nursing Assistant and member of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. “So I would like to tell Congressman Smucker that attacking unions and our right to organize is wrong, and as his constituents we demand he stand up for US, not the corporations.”

Congressman Smucker has a long track record of sponsoring and supporting anti-worker and anti-union legislation. As a state senator, he cosponsored so-called “right-to-work” legislation and voted for a “paycheck protection” bill. Both are notorious right wing-sponsored pieces of legislation, often ghostwritten for local legislators by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC); a heavily conservative group that authors “model legislation” on behalf of corporations and right-wing billionaires.

Smucker has continued his anti-union crusade as a U.S. Congressman, cosponsoring HR 2629, a bill that would make it harder for workers to form unions, and HR 3441, the “Save Local Businesses Act” which rolls back the joint employer standard under the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

More recently, he supported the Trump Administration’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and voted in favor of stripping 24 million Americans of their health insurance while gutting Medicaid, the program that provides care for our most vulnerable -including millions of seniors and children.

“We live in the richest nation in the history of the world,” said Andrea Lamour-Harrington, a homecare worker from Pittsburgh.  “And I work 50 hours a week as a healthcare worker. So why in the world am I standing here having to beg our elected leaders to not kill me.”

The Congressman also supports President Trump’s plan to end DACA and is threatening to expel nearly 800,000 young people from our country.  Flip-flopping on his promise he made as a State Senator to immigrant families in Pennsylvania.

“Smucker’s refusal to defend DACA is a betrayal of the promise he made to thousands of young people covered under the DACA program while state senator,” said Adanjesus Marin, director of Make the Road PA. “While he may have forgotten his promises, we will never forget his betrayal.”

Pennsylvania’s healthcare workers will continue to stand up for immigrant justice and workers’ rights, and advocate for access to healthcare for all.

“When I look out at this crowd, I see hope! I see strength! I see a future different from the one Mr. Smucker has planned for us,” Cole told rally goers. “When I look out at this crowd, I know that we will fight, and we will win!”

Contact: James Myers, Member Communicator; 215-479-2213; james.myers@seiuhcpa.org.

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About SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania 

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. Together, we work to protect patient care, expand access to quality health care for all, and to lives of healthcare workers. We accomplish these goals by organizing non-union healthcare workers, driving industry standards in our contracts and fighting for legislation that affects health care in our state. SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania is affiliated with SEIU Healthcare, part of the Service Employees International Union which represents 2.1 million working people in health care, public services, and property services.

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