“This Is My Home:” Assisted Living Residents & 1199 SEIU-Represented Health Care Workers Join Together In Protest At Suburban Buffalo’s Blocher Homes – Know Very Little About Future Of Facility That’s Currently Up For Sale
(WILLIAMSVILLE, NEW YORK) - Since abruptly announcing plans to pursue a sale of Blocher Homes to People, Incorporated in July, 1199 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Workers East says Beechwood Corporation management has provided very little information about what comes next for the Staff and residents of the 57-room Assisted Living Facility located in the Buffalo Suburb of Williamsville, leaving both groups anxious and unable to plan for their futures.
That’s why the 19 Unionized Health Care Workers employed at the facility joined with Blocher Homes residents, some in their 90s and one who is 104-years old, and their families and neighbors on Monday (September 8th) to protest management’s decision to exclude them from anything to do with the sale and to insist that jobs and a high quality of life for residents are protected.
"The decisions ‘being made affect all of us,’ residents and Workers alike,” said Janice Nichter, a 19-year Personal Care Aide and long-time 1199SEIU Union Delegate at Blocher. “We ‘show up in snowstorms, we stay after hours, we are here through thick in thin, yet, (Beechwood President and CEO) Daniel O'Neill hasn't even talked to a single Employee about closing.’ ‘We feel very disrespected.’ ‘Shame on them for not involving us as a part of the process.’”
The majority of Health Care Workers employed at Blocher Homes have worked at the Non-Profit Nursing Facility for more than a decade and have formed deep connections with the residents they care for.
To date, Beechwood has refused all requests to provide information or negotiate over the impact of the closure.
Blocher Homes was originally opened in 1906 by John and Elizabeth Neff Blocher for their purpose as “a home where old men and women can enjoy their declining years and be cared for during illness.”
The home affiliated with Beechwood in 1977 and now shares overlapping boards of directors, human resource departments and other resources.
Upon announcement of the potential sale in August, Blocher Administrator informed 1199 SEIU Union Members that it was always part of the Beechwood strategic plan to bring the assisted living portion onto Beechwood’s main campus on Millersport Highway in the neighboring Suburb of Getzville.
Since then, company CEO Daniel O’Neill has told local media they had space for residents and Workers, but the company has refused all requests to sit down and discuss the impact on its long-time Workers and is not giving meaningful assurances to its residents, Union Officials said.
“There is ‘anxiety around many unanswered questions,” 1199 SEIU Staff Organizer Marshall Bertram said. “Will residents ‘stay assisted living or change to long-term care?’ ‘Will Workers need retraining?’ ‘Will residents be able to keep the same caregivers and neighbors they’ve had for years?’ ‘If there is a plan, we want to know how it will affect residents and Workers.’ ‘If there isn’t a plan, we want to a part of the discussion.’ Beechwood has said ‘this is not a ($25 million) real estate cash grab and if that’s the case, they should assure that the Workers will retain their jobs and benefits and residents can retain the same quality of life they currently enjoy currently,’” said Marshall Bertram 1199SEIU Staff Organizer.
“We ‘just want the truth,” said Syd MacDougall, a 75-year-old resident of the facility. “The story from Beechwood ‘keeps changing, creating more stress for everyone involved.’”
1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East - whose mission is to achieve quality care and good jobs for all - represents more than 400,000 Nurses and Caregivers throughout the states of Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Florida and in Washington, D.C. – and more than 11,800 Nursing Home and Hospital Workers across Western New York.