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Union nursing home workers launch campaign to raise standards, improve care

Nursing home workers represented by 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East, are participating in a bargaining training today to kick-off a multi-employer campaign to raise standards and improve quality care in Western New York.

Over 5,000 union members working at 29 different nursing home facilities in the Buffalo area will unite to address chronic issues with short staffing and/or high levels of staff turnover partly driven by low wages ($14.00 per hour is the average) and substandard benefits that make it difficult to recruit and retain staff.

“We have all seen the horror stories,” said Tanya Goffee, C.N.A at Safire at the Northtowns. “There are too many residents in our nursing homes who are not getting the care that they should.”

“You can barely afford to take care of your family working at a nursing home,” said Toni Adamson, who works at Comprehensive at Williamsville. “It is sad.”

Short staffing and high turnover at nursing homes have a significant impact on the continuity of care that frail and elderly nursing home residents depend on, medically, emotionally, and socially. Turnover also impacts care by forcing caregivers to work extra shifts, exhausted and sick, with little access to quality health care for themselves.

“Healthcare workers should have good health insurance,” said Darlene Gates, a long term home health worker at Weinberg Campus. “But we just can’t afford it.”

At nursing homes across the state, 1199SEIU union contracts that upgrade pay, benefits, and working conditions have been effective in reducing staff turnover, improving continuity of care, and enriching the quality of care that residents receive.

Going into 2020, 1199 nursing home workers are kicking off a campaign that pledges to use the power of collective bargaining and political action to improve conditions at skilled nursing facilities in the Buffalo area. 1199’s proposals would boost wages and benefits, which would go a long way in helping to resolve problems related to the recruitment and retention of staff, thereby improving the staffing situation and quality care. There is an undeniable connection between healthcare workers who can take care of themselves and their families at home and who are respected on the job — and quality patient care.

“Our objective in these negotiations is to improve wages, benefits and staffing in our nursing homes,” said 1199 Vice-President Todd Hobler “Nursing home works deserve better. The residents deserve better. Our community deserves better.”

“We will be in Albany to make our case. We will be at the bargaining table. We will be taking action in our communities. We will do what we have to do make the changes that are needed in our nursing homes,” he said.

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