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Nursing home employees go on strike

New Castle News - 9/6/2022

Sep. 3—Inadequate staffing, unfair wages and other inadequacies with their jobs of effectively taking care of residents are reasons cited by local nursing home employees of why they went on strike Friday.

A picket formed at 6 a.m. outside of The Grove at New Castle nursing facility on Harbor Street on the city's West Side. The striking workers, carrying signs and sporting special purple T-shirts, marched back and forth on the road in front of the property, chanting loudly. The picket was to last for 12 hours.

They vowed they will be there every day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. until they and the home's management team reach a fair labor contract.

Meanwhile, the 54 residents inside the facility apparently are being cared for by the management staff. Multiple attempts to reach management at the facility about how the residents are being cared for, and by whom, and circumstances regarding the negotiations, were unsuccessful Friday afternoon. The managing company, Comprehensive Healthcare, did not issue an official statement.

The striking workers are members of the Service Employees International Union, an international labor union that spans the United States and Canada.

Several other related nursing facilities also are striking, but the Grove in New Wilmington, which also is part of the group of homes that it owns, is not one of those, confirmed Matt Rubin, a spokesman for SEIU who was outside of The Grove on Friday.

A news release issued by SEIU states that 700 of its member workers at 14 nursing homes statewide have begun unfair labor practice strikes after Comprehensive Healthcare and Priority Healthcare, the primary owners, failed to provide significant enough investments into staffing and care. Negotiations started Thursday morning and ended at an impasse in the early hours Friday morning.

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"Our goal has always been — and continues to be — to get a fair contract that invests in this entire workforce and will meaningfully address the staffing crisis," said Matthew Yarnell, President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. "But the offers on the table still fall short — Comprehensive and Priority are failing to create the kind of wage scales we've been able to achieve with other providers. These workers have been underpaid and disrespected for far too long, and it's both them and the residents they care for who suffer."

Later Friday on picket lines statewide, workers were to be joined by elected leaders, allies, and supporters who are demanding accountability for the $600 million in public funds that nursing homes will receive in the state budget, 70 percent of which is to be spent on staffing and bedside care, the SEIU release states.

No additional bargaining dates have been set with the company, but workers are hopeful to get back to the table as soon as possible, the release said.

Lindsey Burns, a licensed practical nurse who was one of the marchers at the New Castle facility, commented, "One of the problems we are having here are short-staffing in the kitchen and all over the building.

"We're looking for better staffing ratios, and we're also looking for a better contract for everybody in the building overall, and we're here for our residents the most."

The workers' union contract expired at the end of July, Burns said, and the staff has been working without a new contract since the beginning of August. The member employees are asking for better wages for everybody, including those in the departments of dietary, laundry, kitchen, activities, maintenance and nursing, Burns said.

She would not comment on what effect COVID has had in the facility, but noted that "it has always been an issue with some of our strikers because it's been going on for two years now and we all have worked through COVID."


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