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!
Posted by Wendy Snyder, RN at Heritage Valley Beaver Hospital -
on November 9, 2017
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.
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.
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.
On, 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?”
Premier 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.
“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.
On 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!
The 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.
Posted by Matthew Yarnell, President, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania -
on September 20, 2017
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
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!
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!”
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
The 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
On 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:
Respect for the contract and our members;
An answer to all outstanding grievances;
Respect for their union; and
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.
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.
Posted by Matt Yarnell, President SEIU Healthcare PA -
on May 5, 2017
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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?”
“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.”
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.
And 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.
But 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.
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.
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.