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1199 SEIU-Represented Nursing Home Workers ‘Take Their Stories To Local Elected Officials In Demand For Fair Contracts & Living Wages’ - Announce Joint Campaign ‘To Fight For $15 Per Hour & Standard Wage Scales’

Published Friday, June 3, 2022
by 1199 SEIU Press Release
1199 SEIU-Represented Nursing Home Workers ‘Take Their Stories To Local Elected Officials In Demand For Fair Contracts & Living Wages’ - Announce Joint Campaign ‘To Fight For $15 Per Hour & Standard Wage Scales’

(BUFFALO, NEW YORK) – 1199 Service Employees International Union (SEIU)-represented Nursing Home Workers who are employed at 12 Nursing Homes across Western New York told their personal stories to elected officials on Friday (June 3rd) in their fight for fair contracts and living wages

Afterward, the Unionized Nursing Home Workers announced a joint campaign to fight for $15 per hour and standard wage scales.

A round table discussion took place in the Downtown Hyatt Regency Hotel in Buffalo where Donna Gregory, a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) at Garden Gate Manor in Suburban Cheektowaga told those elected officials: “I’ve been there nine years and I don’t even make ($15) per hour.  It’s tough and it hurts.  It makes me feel that I’m not worth anything, but I stay for my residents because I love what I do.  Right now, I am the true the definition of living pay check to pay check.”

James Funderburk, an Environmental Services Aide at Elderwood in Suburban Williamsville, said: “We just have the same conversation over and over.  I never thought I would work in an industry where I would make less than other industries while taking care of a human life.”

Another - Cynthia Winkler, a CNA employed at the Autumn View Manor in Hamburg, said: “More and more people are leaving to work elsewhere for more money.”

Twelve for-profit nursing home contracts that cover a combined 1,200 Health Care Workers represented by 1199 SEIU, have all expired.

The 12 are owned by six different out-of-town, for-profit groups - including: the Autumn View Manor; the Buffalo Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation; the Ellicott Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation in Buffalo; Elderwood at Lockport; Elderwood at Williamsville; the Fiddler's Green Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Springville; Garden Gate Manor; the Gowanda Rehab & Nursing in Chautauqua County; the Humboldt Nursing Home in Buffalo; Newfane Rehabilitation in Orleans County; the North Gate Manor in North Tonawanda; and the Seneca Health Care Center in West Seneca.

“1199's Members - Front Line Workers of the first order in nursing homes and similar facilities, have worked tirelessly, before and during the pandemic, and deserve to be fairly compensated," Congressman Higgins said. "(I look) forward to hearing directly from Employees at local facilities about the challenges they face and about the fight for wages sufficient to make certain that our most vulnerable Western New Yorkers will be safely cared for.”

Those taking part in the roundtable discussion said New York State’s Nursing Home Reforms were long overdue and the COVID-19 Pandemic exposed problems in nursing homes, including low wages and poor staffing levels.

The reforms are meant to improve staffing levels and increase owner’s spending on bed-side Caregivers to provide for residents, but several for-profit nursing homes are fighting against these laws.  

In fact, six of the 12 facilities currently in negotiations with 1199 SEIU are participants in a joint lawsuit against New York’s new reform laws that set requirements on spending.

The new Statewide Staffing Law requires nursing home owners spend 70% of their revenue on direct care to residents, 40% of that is to be spent on staffing the facility.

Each nursing home resident should receive a minimum of 3.5 hours of care per day, according to the new Staffing Laws.

Many of these 12 for-profit homes currently do not meet the standard, but could if more Staff were hired at competitive wage rates, the Nursing Home Employees said.

For example, some Workers employed at Elderwood say they care for COVID patients and are earning only $13.20 per hour.

At another for-profit, turnover rates are high.

For example, of the 15 Elderwood facilities located across New York State, 12 facilities report higher than 50% turnover rates amongst Staff, those at the roundtable said. 

At least six of the same 15 facilities have low staffing ratios, according to U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

More job actions will likely occur at other nursing home facilities where Workers are demanding better from for-profit ownership groups, 1199 SEIU Officials said.

To date, both Elderwood at Lockport and Elderwood at Williamsville held informational pickets outside of their facilities, but other facilities are likely to follow their peers.

Workers at all 12 nursing homes are asking for similar wage scales and starting wage rates for new hires above the current $13.20 Minimum Wage that other Workers have won in recent settlements, such as Weinberg Campus and The Grand at Delaware Park, formerly Emerald North, Union Officials said.

Weinberg Campus was short-staffed due to lower wages, but Workers were able to win higher starting rates and Weinberg has successfully hired 78 new Workers since January 1st.

Many at Weinberg Campus are now earning at least $15 per hour, well above the Minimum Wage, with increased pay based on experience.

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