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Healthcare Workers Are Empowered!

Two women at a podium talking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Workers at Mazzoni Center Fight For Union Recognition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Easton Hospital Workers Reap Benefits of Wage Review Committee

Easton_Banner

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

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

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

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

When we fight, we win!

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Spruce Manor Members Stand Up for Their Rights and Their Residents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Good Afternoon SEIU Healthcare,

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

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

Here’s what the AHCA does. The bill…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours in Solidarity,

Matt Yarnell
President
SEIU Healthcare PA

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Commonwealth Nurses Won’t Take Closures Sitting Down

PA state nurses committee

As longtime commonwealth employees, the complicated budget process is nothing new to us, but this year, we’re facing an impossible situation.

But first, let’s be clear. We strongly oppose the closure of any state institutions, but thanks to years of Republican obstructionism and refusal to look at increasing revenue, these decisions have been nearly unavoidable.

How did we get here? For two years, Governor Wolf has tried to create a responsible budget that deals with the serious budget deficits and funds the services everyone in Pennsylvania needs.

But rather than do the real work governing requires, over and over again, Republicans in the General Assembly have obstinately refused to even consider raising the revenue we need. Instead, they seem far more interested in protecting tax loopholes for big business and the fracking industry than what happens to the rest of us.

Now it’s up to Governor Wolf – and the people of Pennsylvania – to figure out how to deal with a massive budget shortfall without adding to the suffering of our most vulnerable citizens and communities. This means some state prisons and hospitals are facing closure to fix the budget holes.

To make sure we make the best of a bad situation, SEIU HCPA is actively engaged in the restructuring process to make sure your voice is heard and our patients and affected colleagues will be protected.

What We’re Doing:

Last week, member meetings were held at Hamburg Center and Norristown State Hospital to discuss the news of closures.  We also convened a conference call for nurses at the five prisons under consideration for closure.  Among the topics discussed were the impact that closures will have on patients and inmates, future job opportunities for affected nurses, and our plan as a Union for responding to this news.

Yesterday, SEIU HCPA VP, Kevin Hefty testified in Harrisburg about the prison closures and next week union leaders and members will testify at  hospital closure hearings to urge policymakers to reconsider these decisions.

We’ll say it again. We strongly oppose the closure of any state institutions, but thanks to years of Republican obstructionism and refusal to look at increasing revenue, these decisions have been nearly impossible to avoid.

If these closures are inevitable, it is vital we are there every step of the way to make sure we are standing up for good union jobs and our most vulnerable patients and communities.

What You Can Do:

While the financial difficulties facing the state are immense, the Republican-led legislature should be leading us by working with the Governor’s Office to explore new revenue sources such as a responsible tax on Marcellus Shale production and reforming the tax code to ensure that corporations pay their fair share.

Contact your representatives to tell them the impact their decisions will have on your patients, you and your colleagues and your communities. Your expertise and personal stories are powerful – make sure your voices are heard.

Attend closure hearings in Hamburg Center and Norristown. There will be two hearings next week to hear from the community about the closings. We need to show up and make a stand. Plan to attend, bring your colleagues, friends, families and neighbors, sign up to speak, call your representatives. This is the time to act.

Hamburg Center Closure Hearing

Monday, January 30, 1pm-4pm

Hamburg Borough Building

Norristown Hospital Closure Hearing

Tuesday, January 31 2pm-5pm

Norristown State Hospital, Building 33

If you have any questions about how to get involved, please contact Neal Manning at Neal.Manning@seiuhcpa.org.

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Forward Together – Our Statement of Purpose

We are nurses and healthcare workers in hospitals, nursing homes, home and community based services and state facilities all across Pennsylvania. We are caregivers who care about the future of our country and want to make it better for our patients, residents, consumers, and future generations. Together, we are SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania

We are tired of a political system that is failing us. We are fed up with an economy that is rigged in favor the wealthy and corporations. We won’t stand for employers that pay low wages and impose health costs our families can’t afford. We’re outraged that companies deny workers their right to organize a union for a voice on the job.

Nurses and healthcare workers are diverse, but we all we want:

  • Wages that attract and retain professionals to do caregiving work, with no employer paying less than$15 an hour for any healthcare job;
  • Union rights for all workers to organize and raise their voices to change the healthcare industry for the better; and
  • Access to quality, affordable healthcare for everyone in our communities.

Together in SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, we’ve learned that we can accomplish more for our professions, our patients, our families, and our communities when we unite. We’re stronger together. That’s why we’re deeply troubled by the rise of dangerous, divisive, and sometimes violent politics in our country. We believe in equal rights and fairness for everyone. We demand that our elected leaders bring people together to invest and get our economy moving, so that all of us have good jobs and a say in what happens to our communities.

We want a more just and humane society.

We won’t stop fighting until we get it.

 

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AGH Workers Chart the Future of the Union

On July 30, leaders of the service, clerical, and technical workers union at Allegheny General Hospital held a leadership retreat to chart the future of the union.

Nowhere in Pittsburgh could you find a more diverse group of people working together to build a better city and create better jobs for healthcare workers across Pennsylvania.

AGH Service and Tech Workers Summit 2 WebAGH workers discussed how proud they are of their accomplishments and what their organizing victory means to their families, patients and community. They talked about what they as a union can do to improve patient care, make AGH a good place to work, and ensure the success of the Allegheny Health Network.

These workers have a deep commitment to collaborating with hospital leadership to achieve success for the health system in a way that benefits patients, workers and the bottom line. Newly created labor-management committees will work with the hospital administration to resolve problems around staffing, scheduling, improving patient satisfaction scores, and other work-related issues.

But they didn’t confine themselves to addressing solely AGH issues. AGH workers discussed how they can address racism in our communities and their role in rebuilding the middle class. They talked about making politics work for working people and despite political differences, they agreed that we need to raise the minimum wage, to force all hospitals to be transparent about staffing, and protect the right to a closed union shop in Pennsylvania.

AGH workers were joined at their retreat by Jared McCray, a UPMC Mercy worker and union leader, who came to congratulate them on their work and accomplishments. McCray delivered an incredibly inspirational message of shared struggle and unity.

AGH workers were so moved by McCray’s passion for their mission that they decided to create an honorary officer position for him when setting up the officer structure. The suggestion was raised by Burton Brown, a Central Sterile Processing Tech, and immediately approved by everyone in the room. In an unprecedented show of solidarity, a UPMC worker will now be a permanent part of the AGH union leadership team.

For decades, many Pittsburgh hospital workers have felt isolated by their struggles, but now are finding hope in their unity.

Congratulations to all who are helping to build something so very special in Pennsylvania.

And now the real work begins!

AGH Service and Tech Workers Summit Web

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Nursing Home Workers Rally Over the Crisis of Poverty Wages

Harrisburg – On February 9, 2016, over a hundred nursing home workers from across the Commonwealth held a march and a rally in the capitol rotunda today to shine a light on the crisis of poverty wages and call on lawmakers to support The Nursing Facility Accountability Act which would spur nursing home employers to provide a living wage, reduce the burden on taxpayers and improve resident care.

The Nursing Facility Accountability Act[i] (HB 1449 (Gainey) /SB 1057 (Leach) would incentivize nursing home employers to pay workers $15 an hour through the creation of a statewide Living Wage Certification Program that would make minimum wage rates paid to employees publicly available. Additionally, nursing home employers would be required to reimburse the state for the costs incurred by providing public assistance benefits to workers.

“I like what I do and want this to be my career,” said Phyliss Williams, a Harrisburg nursing home attendant, “But the sad fact is I can’t afford to make it a career. With the wages I make, I am struggling to support my family and must rely on Medicaid and food stamps. If we can raise nursing home wages to at least $15 an hour, this will go from being a job to a career for me and for so many others.”

A report released earlier this year by the Keystone Research Center[ii] confirmed that 52 percent of PA nursing home workers cannot support their families on the wages they earn, and, in 2015, the PA Department of Human Services found that over 14,000 nursing home workers received taxpayer-funded public assistance at an annual taxpayer cost of $118 million.

“I love helping people who have had a difficult medical condition recover. It’s a challenging job but a privilege to help people in need,” said Venaye Sanders, a Philadelphia restorative aide. “All my co-workers and I are asking for is to be fairly compensated to provide care to those who need it most.”

According to the report, the nursing home industry – which derives 70 percent of their revenue from Medicaid and Medicare – can afford to provide its workers a living wage. In 2014, it generated more than $400 million in profits.

A wage increase also would benefit nursing home residents by reducing turnover, improving continuity of care and lowering recruitment and training costs. Based on industry estimates, halving turnover from the industry standard of 66 percent for nursing assistants could, by itself, pay for a 60-cent per hour increase in caregiver wages.

 

For more information contact: Amelia Abromaitis – Amelia.Abromaitis@seiuhcpa.org / 215.219.4248

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Nursing Home Workers Take Fight for $15 to Halls of Harrisburg

PA nursing home workers testified this week at a public hearing in support of a new bill that would incentivize nursing homes to start caregivers at a minimum of $15 an hour.

PA nursing home workers testify at a public hearing in support of a new bill that would incentivize nursing homes to start caregivers at a minimum of $15 an hour.

PA nursing home workers testify at a public hearing in support of a new bill that would incentivize nursing homes to start caregivers at a minimum of $15 an hour.

On Monday, nursing home workers from Philadelphia, Easton, and Plymouth took the Fight for $15 from the streets to the halls of power in Harrisburg, testifying at a packed public hearing in support of House Bill 1449. The bill, introduced by Representative Ed Gainey, would incentivize nursing home employers to pay a minimum of $15 an hour to workers through creation of a statewide Living Wage Certification Program.

IMG_2643“After 10 years I only make $11.45 and I depend on public assistance to get by,” said Tisheia Frazier, a certified nurse aide from Philadelphia. “I get $200 per month in food stamps. I have heating assistance in the winter and our apartment is part of a low-income housing program. It’s heartbreaking to work full time and barely be above the poverty line.”

The low wages being paid at nursing homes across the country make it difficult for many who’ve dedicated their lives to caring for others to get by. Many are struggling to merely survive in today’s economy.

Not paying workers an adequate wage also leads to high turnover, resulting in staffing shortages which only serve to lower the quality of care for vulnerable nursing home residents.

Under Rep. Gainey’s bill’s Living Wage Certification Program, facilities would share their salary information with the public.

IMG_2905“Publicizing wage rates allows the public access to this critical information and, hopefully, encourages providers to increase wages,” said Matt Yarnell, Vice President of Long Term Care for SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. “At a minimum, the public can make a more informed choice about where to send their family members. And, quite frankly, employees can make choices about where to work.”

Monday’s testimony also focused on the massive profits these nursing home facilities rake in. Despite repeated claims that they cannot afford to raise wages, a recent study found the nursing home industry made over $400 million in profits last year in Pennsylvania, up from the year before. What’s more, the majority of their funding comes from tax dollars in the form of Medicaid and Medicare. So our tax dollars go to fund their profits.

“Ultimately, it comes down to priorities,” continued Yarnell. “Do we want our taxpayer dollars to go to good jobs and care, or to profits for institutional investors, stockholders, and CEOs?”

According to a recent study by the Keystone Research Center, currently 1 in 6 nursing home workers rely on public assistance.

“If we raised the start rate to $15 an hour, it would mean an extra $3,500 in my paycheck,” said Dharnell Bridges, who works in laundry and housekeeping in the Lehigh Valley area. “I want to stay working at the nursing home – it’s important work.  I want this to be the job that I can be proud of and tell my kids that if you do work hard you can raise a family too.”

You can read the full testimony from healthcare experts and economists who provided information on the impact of HB1449 here.

If you’d like to learn more or find out how you can get involved in the Fight for $15 in your community, write to PAFightfor15@gmail.com.

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Nursing Home Workers Join Fight for $15

As the Baby Boomer generation ages, nursing homes and long-term care facilities have become an increasingly more important part of our lives. Many of us rely on these facilities to help care for our parents, grandparents and other aging relatives.

16974687518_efb23cc4bf_zAnd while we entrust our most vulnerable loved ones to these facilities and the dedicated health care professionals who staff them, most of us remain largely unaware that another vulnerable population is being taken advantage of in this process — the caregivers themselves.

According to new findings from the Keystone Research Center (KRC), while the nursing home industry thrives, reporting $407 million in profits in Pennsylvania alone in 2014 (up from $370 million in 2013), nursing home staff members struggle to make ends meet.

Many of these caregivers are paid so poorly they rely on public assistance and food banks to survive. According to Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services, close to 15,000 caregivers in nursing homes today receive public assistance through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (or SNAP), Medicaid, or both. That’s nearly one in six! The estimated taxpayer cost of this assistance is $118 million annually.

Erie FFBut the taxpayer assistance doesn’t stop there. The profits the nursing home industry takes in are funded largely through Medicaid and Medicare — two more taxpayer funded systems. That means industry owners are draining the coffers from both ends.

That’s why nursing home workers are joining the national Fight for $15 movement. One in three of these workers makes less than $15 for this incredibly important and difficult work of caring for the elderly and infirm. They deserve better.

Raising wages would not only improve the lives of these dedicated workers, but it would help to rebuild our communities by boosting local economies and getting more people off public assistance. According to the KRC, raising starting wages in nursing homes to $15 an hour would add $300 million back to our local economy and more importantly, to the budgets of struggling families trying to make ends meet.

These low wages have another negative effect on the industry — the quality of care our loved ones receive. When wages are kept low, recruiting and maintaining a top-notch staff of trained professionals becomes almost impossible. Turnover is high and it’s the residents of these facilities that truly suffer the consequences.

The nursing home industry is a profitable one and it can afford to pay a living wage. It’s time we demand they do just that and put an end to corporate welfare. Taxpayer money should be spent on good jobs and high-quality care, not to line the pockets of wealthy industry executives and CEOs.

That’s why, this Nov. 10, nursing home workers across Pennsylvania will be rising up in historic numbers to join other low-wage workers across the country to join the Fight for $15 and demand better jobs and a path to stronger communities for all of us.

Click here to find out how you can join them in calling for an end to poverty wages.

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Gov. Wolf’s Pension Proposal: Security for Working Families, Stability for Our Economy

For years, legislators short-changed state employees

Secure retirement is imperative for a healthy economy. That’s why a key component of Gov. Wolf’s budget proposal is pension reform. State employees have contributed 6.5% to 7.5% of their paychecks toward retirement every payday. But bad policy from over a decade ago allowed the state to skimp on its share of pension contributions. That’s like not making the minimum payment on a credit card for over ten years. That, combined with the stock market downturns, created a pension funding problem that has reached $52 billion.

Residents of Altoona, Pa. joined folks all over Pennsylvania earlier this year to call for a fair state budget that bring good jobs and build healthy communities.

Residents of Altoona, Pa. joined folks all over Pennsylvania earlier this year to call for a fair state budget that bring good jobs and build healthy communities.

What’s more, because of the corporate tax shelters like the Delaware Tax Loophole and the Corbett Administration’s refusal to consider a tax on shale drillers, we’ve let huge corporations get away with not paying their fair share.

State employees have already made sacrifices. Five years ago, Act 20 was passed, which cut benefits for new employees, And now some legislators would have them sacrifice even more or even give up their retirement security altogether. It’s time for a solution that makes sense and does not burden the middle class.

So how do we fix it?

As part of his state budget proposal, Gov. Wolf has a commonsense approach to pension reform that saves retirement and does not ask anyone to make more sacrifices. His plan works by putting an end to huge payments to Wall Street, paying our bills on time, making sure politicians can’t spend workers’ retirement on other projects, and creating new sources of funding:

  • Every year Pennsylvania gives nearly $700 million to Wall Street firms and hedge fund investors (much more than most other states), rather than making sure those funds to workers’ retirement. Gov. Wolf will change that system, making sure money goes to our middle class, not Wall Street millionaires.
  • Governor Wolf’s budget will create a dedicated revenue stream for pensions and put the funds into a restricted account so politicians can no longer spend workers’ pension savings at their whim.
  • The governor’s plan also modernizes the liquor store system to generate more money for pensions.
  • This budget plan will reduce Pa.’s long term liability by more than $10 billion.
What about Big Business?

To make things even more fair for Pa. residents, Gov. Wolf is asking big business to stop shirking their responsibilities and be part of the solution.

His budget would institute a modest 5% extraction tax on Marcellus Shale drilling companies. Pennsylvania is the only major gas-producing state that does not have a severance tax and it’s estimated to generate $1 billion for Pennsylvania in this fiscal year alone. His budget also aims to close corporate loopholes (like the Delaware Tax Loophole) which huge corporations have used to avoid paying taxes by hiding their taxes out of state. That move would generate an additional $500 million per year.

As a businessman, Gov. Tom Wolf plans to make our state more attractive to business investment by significantly lowering the corporate net income tax (one of the largest in the country) and phasing out the capital stock and franchise tax. With the Governor’s budget, not only will corporations finally be paying their fair share, they’ll be getting a fair deal to make doing business in Pennsylvania a win-win situation for everyone.

The choice is clear. Supporting Gov. Wolf’s budget is right for Pennsylvania and its workers. Now the rest of the Legislature needs to get on board.

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Let’s Get Medicaid Expansion Done Right

State budgets are all about the choices and values of our elected representatives. Based on a recent Franklin & Marshall poll, it appears that a majority of working Pennsylvanians agree with Governor Wolf’s priorities for moving our state ahead.

One of the promises Gov. Wolf made during his campaign was to bring real Medicaid expansion to Pennsylvania. Now, true to his word, he has begun working to undo Corbett’s disastrous “Healthy PA” plan and transition to real Medicaid Expansion once and for all.

Add your support for this transition here!

Medicaid Expansion Wiz_Capitol_sm

Citizens call for Medicaid expansion at a rally in the Capitol.

This is great news because:

  • The cuts and harmful changes pushed through under “Healthy PA” will be reversed;
  • People will start to get better, more comprehensive benefits; and
  • Thousands of new jobs will be created across the state.

As our legislature continues the budget debate, we need to send a message to decision-makers that we support Medicaid expansion and its goals of providing quality, affordable, equitable healthcare for all Pennsylvanians.

But we need to act now. A special public comment period on the Governor’s Medicaid Expansion transition plan is currently underway.

Click here to add your voice!

Let’s get Medicaid expansion done right! 

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Finally! A State Budget That Works for PA Families

Residents and taxpayers gather in Allentown to call on legislators to pass a fair state budget.

Residents and taxpayers gather in Allentown to call on legislators to pass a fair state budget.

In early March, Governor Tom Wolf unveiled his state budget, drawing strong support from people across Pennsylvania who are ready for a change. After four years of cuts to education and public services, Governor Wolf’s proposal reinvests in working families and holds huge corporations accountable to paying their fair share.

 Click here to urge your legislators to pass the governor’s budget without delay.

Jobs That Pay

The governor’s budget will create jobs to get Pennsylvania back on track. His plan will strengthen our workforce and provide incentives to businesses that create high-paying jobs.

The governor also calls for a hike in the state minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, which will help millions of families that work full time yet struggle to make ends meet.

Schools That Teach

Governor Wolf’s budget makes historic investments in education by making the Marcellus Shale industry pay its fair share and closing corporate tax loopholes.  This will lessen the burden on the rest of us and middle class families will see a reduction of school district property taxes by more than 50%.

Meanwhile, the budget will restore cuts to basic education that have forced our children into crowded classrooms and promises a restoration to cuts made to higher education in two years.

Government That Works

Governor Wolf’s plan will finally provide real Medicaid expansion to thousands of hardworking people in our state, which will ensure there are no cuts to people living with disabilities, create tens of thousands of jobs, and help fund local hospitals. What’s more, this budget aims to improve the lives of over 5,000 seniors and people with disabilities by providing more funding for home and community-based services to give them the option to receive care at home.

We elected a Governor to stand up for the needs of working families and this budget is further proof we made the right choice. 

Now we must contact our legislators and urge them to do their part and pass Governor’s Wolf’s budget without delay. Email your legislators today and tell them Pennsylvania is ready to raise the wage, fund our schools and provide healthcare to those who need it. 

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Defending the Affordable Care Act all the way to the Supreme Court

Despite the millions of Americans who now have access to affordable, quality care thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), opponents of the health care law continue in vain to try and dismantle it.

The latest of these attacks comes in the form of King vs. Burwell, a case being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the IRS regulations that allow those applying for the ACA to receive subsidies as outlined by the law and accepted by those legislators who passed it in 2010.

Michelle Boyle, speaking out for access to healthcare at a rally in 2013, and her daughter, who holds a picture of her grandmother. Michelle Boyle's mother-in-law passed away from a treatable disease because she did not have access to affordable, preventative care.

Michelle Boyle, speaking out for access to healthcare at a rally in 2013, and her daughter, who holds a picture of her grandmother. Michelle Boyle’s mother-in-law passed away from a treatable disease because she did not have access to affordable, preventative care.

Here in Pennsylvania, we fought to help implement that law and get uninsured Pennsylvanians access to the healthcare coverage they so desperately needed. Now that the law is working for so many, we won’t sit idly by and let these unfounded and frivolous attacks go unanswered.

Michelle Boyle, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania member and RN at Allegheny General Hospital, has added her name to an amicus brief being filed in the case. The brief defends the subsidies and is informed by Michelle’s testimony as a healthcare provider and the testimony of other like-minded professionals.

Michelle was an early supporter of the ACA, learning firsthand the importance of having access to healthcare.

Michelle’s mother-in-law, Hannah Jewel Brown, lost her job and with it, her healthcare. She died of treatable chronic conditions at the age of 58, because she didn’t have access to basic care.

“She never lived long enough to play with her grandchildren,” said Michelle. “Our daughters hold her picture instead of her hand.”

It is this profound loss and her experience as a frontline caregiver that drives Michelle’s passion for making sure others have access to care.

“Before the Affordable Care Act passed, I saw patients and families praying at the bedside wondering if this was the time they may lose their house to medical bills,” Michelle said. “My mother-in-law didn’t receive treatment because there were no affordable options for her.”

“I have included my name on this amicus because I want other people to have access to affordable health care,” said Michelle. “So they can live to see their grandchildren.”

Read more about Michelle’s story here.

 

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Having healthcare means I can finally sleep easier at night

Before coming to Philadelphia, Ayoka Dyani-Ojo lived in Florida and South Carolina where it was very hard to access affordable health insurance. As a result, she was Ayoka Dyani-Ojouninsured on and off for about 10 years.

Being uninsured has been a scary thing for Ayoka. Not being able to go to the doctor made it hard to do the work she is so passionate about – providing home care to those who need it.

With her chronic back pain, basic tasks like using the bathroom or going to the store proved to be a challenge. She often had to go to work in pain because she could not afford to see a doctor.

For the last four and a half years, Ayoka has been working for Liberty Resources in Philadelphia and is a member of the United Home Care Workers of Pennsylvania (UHWP).*

UHWP has been working hard over the last two months to connect home care workers with options to enroll for healthcare under the new Healthy PA plan. Although this plan is not perfect, it brings us one step closer to real Medicaid Expansion in Pennsylvania.

In December, after years of being uninsured, Ayoka was able to sign up for healthcare coverage during an enrollment meeting.

A month after enrolling, Ayoka says having healthcare has removed a lot of stress. Now she does not have to worry about whether or not she or her husband can go to the doctor if they get sick. She is able to sleep a lot easier and for that she is grateful.

 

*The United Home Care Workers of Pennsylvania is a joint affiliate of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania and AFSCME.

 

 

 

 

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Help Make REAL Medicaid Expansion in PA a Reality!

Want to make quality, affordable healthcare available to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians and bring millions of dollars in funding to local hospitals?

We do too.

You can help by joining healthcare professionals like us make a public stand for REAL Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania in 2015. It’s as easy as 1,2,3…

1. Make a Sign

Write out your support for Medicaid expansion in PA and use the hashtag #MA4PA in your sign. You can even make it your New Year’s Resolution!

2. Take a Picture

Take a selfie by yourself or with a group of friends holding your sign.

3. Post It

Post your selfie to your favorite social media site OR email it to weborganizer@seiuhcpa.org. Make sure you use #MA4PA so we can find you, like you and share your post!

We want our elected leaders to see just how important Medicaid expansion is to real Pennsylvanians. Make your voice heard and post a picture today.

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Why I’m Standing with Tom Wolf

My name is Aretha Spady. I am a home care worker from north Philadelphia and on Friday, October 3rd, Tom Wolf walked a day in my shoes.

And let me tell you, he wasn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves and do everything I asked. He made the bed, folded laundry, did the dishes and SEUI_TomWolf_031
swept the floors to help take care of Mr. Leroy, my consumer. Even more importantly, he listened to us as we shared our ideas for making the home care system better.

And there is a lot of room for improvement. Right now I make $10.50 an hour working 40 hours a week. I still can’t make ends meet and I live paycheck to paycheck. My job does not provide healthcare, sick days, or vacation. In fact, the last time I went on vacation was when I was a child.

Millions of Pennsylvania seniors and people with disabilities depend on having reliable, quality care and the majority want to receive it in their homes. Tom Wolf gets that. That’s why he supports making sure home and community-based services get the funding it needs to provide the best care.  Governor Corbett, on the other hand, wants to cut Medicaid benefits for over million Pennsylvanians who rely on it to stay healthy.

For me, the choice is easy. I truly believe Tom Wolf is going to do what’s right by home care workers, seniors and people with disabilities. That’s why I am supporting him on November 4 and even after to make sure Pennsylvania has a health care system we can all be proud of.SEUI_TomWolf_011

 

Aretha Spady,

Home Care Attendant, Philadelphia

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