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Union win in Pennsylvania: Over 2,000 U.S. nursing home workers gain strong union contracts


Union win in Pennsylvania: Over 2,000 U.S. nursing home workers gain strong union contracts

The contracts with leading long-term care providers contain wage increases, better benefits, and provisions that hold industry accountable to workers and residents

After months of negotiations at the bargaining table, and the longest nursing home strike in SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania’s history, more than 2,000 workers nursing homes throughout the U.S. state won union contracts that invest in staffing and resident care. The workers at long-term care facilities—owned by Comprehensive Healthcare, Priority Healthcare and Shenandoah Heights Healthcare, LLC–believe that their victory will help transform the nursing home industry in Pennsylvania and throughout the entire United States.

During their strike earlier this month, workers from all over the state, members of UNI affiliate SEIU, were joined on the picket line by U.S. President Joe Biden. President Biden stood in solidarity with care workers fighting for decent work and dignity on the job.

“After seven days on the picket line, we’re eager to get back to our residents and the work we love. It was an incredibly difficult decision to strike, but we hung together because we deserve a contract that protects our union, strengthens our workforce, and puts resident care first,” said bargaining committee member Shannon McBride, a certified nursing assistant at The Grove at Irwin, owned by Comprehensive Healthcare.

“Our demands fell on deaf ears for far too long, but we refused to stand down. And management finally heard us. This agreement is a step in the right direction toward raising the bar for care and care jobs at Comprehensive facilities across Pennsylvania.”

There are separate contracts for Comprehensive, Priority and Shenandoah-owned homes, but all three include:

· Wage scales that lift all workers across all departments; across-the-board increases for all workers; and longevity increases to respect experience and years of service to retain the workforce. The average raise for workers across the three contracts is 24 per cent.

· Adjustments to health insurance costs so that care is more affordable and accessible to all workers.

· A commitment to adhere to the upcoming improved state staffing regulations.

· Language to maintain union contracts if these nursing homes are sold, rather than contracts being dismantled in a sale.

“I experienced firsthand what it’s like when your facility gets sold to a new company. Your benefits get taken away, your pay gets reduced, people end up quitting for better opportunities, and the talent that stays becomes overworked,” said Raheem Armitage, a certified nursing assistant at Priority-owned The Gardens at Wyoming Valley. “You worry whether you’ll have a job tomorrow and how you’ll take care of your family. So having successorship language means we can keep what we fought for — we won’t have to start from zero again.”

The Shenandoah contract includes employer-paid holidays, meaning workers will no longer have to use their paid time off to celebrate holidays with their families.

“These workers have been relentless advocates for their residents, providing care through conditions most of us cannot even imagine,” said Matthew Yarnell, President SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. “There’s a national trend towards for-profit nursing home operators using tax dollars to fulfill the demands of their investors. This strike was about forcing nursing home operators to invest in our work and care for Pennsylvania’s residents. We stand against that for-profit model of how we care for nursing home residents.”

Head of UNI Global Union’s Care sector, Adrian Durtschi said, “It is past time that care workers get the fair pay, dignity at work and voice on the job they deserve. We celebrate the brave workers who went on strike to achieve this historic win.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have been calling for urgent investment in an absolutely essential sector – care workers cannot continue on poverty wages, chronically understaffed and unfairly underpaid. This groundbreaking win shows the power of people standing together in their unions to hold companies accountable.”

The long-term care workers were part of unfair labour practice strikes that began the U.S. Labour Day weekend, 2-5 September. Certified nursing assistants, dietary workers, housekeepers, activities workers, aides, and other essential positions that keep our communities’ nursing homes running walked off the job to demand corporate accountability for the $600M in public funds from the state budget intended to rebuild the workforce and bring caregivers back to the bedside.

On August 30, Guardian-owned facilities originally slated to join the strike reached an agreement.