PA AFL CIO, LEGISLATORS CALL ON PRIORITY HEALTHCARE GROUP, COMPREHENSIVE HEALTHCARE TO NEGOTIATE IN GOOD FAITH, DELIVER ON PROMISE TO PA NURSING HOME CAREGIVERS', RESIDENTS
HARRISBURG, PA (August 31, 2022) — Angela Ferritto, President of the PA AFL-CIO, PA State Senator Maria Collett and Rep. Bridget Kosierowski called on Priority Healthcare Group and Comprehensive Healthcare owners to negotiate in good faith and deliver on their promise to PA nursing home caregivers' and residents by investing $600 million Pennsylvania budget investment in workforce and resident care. Leaders were joined by SEIU Healthcare members who laid bare the urgent need for good faith bargaining by nursing home chain owners.
“PA AFL-CIO stands in support of our friends, the SEIU Healthcare nursing home residents and workers – nearly all women – who have been underpaid and undervalued for too long,” said Angela Ferritto, PA AFL CIO president. “On behalf of Pennsylvania taxpayers, we are demanding that the owners be held accountable for the $600 million public investment — an investment intended to lift up wages and invest in care — not to pad owners’ pockets.”
During PA budget negotiations, union members joined Governor Tom Wolf, legislators on both sides of the aisle, and nursing home industry executives to successfully advocate for a $600 million public investment in underfunded nursing homes. Now, two nursing home chains are thumbing their nose at the legislative intent of that funding by refusing to invest in underpaid staff and long overdue resident care.
Ferritto was joined Sen. Collett and Rep. Kosierowski, who heard first-hand accounts from frontline care workers of the urgent need for action. Legislators called on nursing home chains to be held accountable for Pennsylvania’s $600 million public investment in long-term care.
“I stand with nursing home workers because I know what it’s like to be in their shoes,” said State Senator Maria Collett, RN. “These critical workers — the overwhelming majority of whom are women and people of color — care for us and our loved ones in our most vulnerable times. Executives continue to treat these caregivers as disposable and interchangeable, but they don't know what it's like to bathe a patient who soiled themselves when their call went unanswered during an understaffed shift or comfort a scared dementia patient in the middle of the night. These jobs are not easy, physically or emotionally, and it’s past time for providers to make long-overdue investments in bedside care and the dedicated staff who keep our long-term care system running.”
“As lawmakers we appropriated $600 million to prevent the collapse of our nursing home system in Pennsylvania,” said State Rep. Bridget Kosierowski. “As a fellow bedside nurse and caregiver, I stand firmly in support of our nursing home workers who are taking a strong stand to protect our seniors and residents and demand real reform, better care, and higher standards and wages. Our seniors, nursing home residents and our women-driven workforce deserve no less.”
“I joined the fight for my residents — it’s all about the residents — and also my coworkers,” said Lindsay Burns, Licensed Practical Nurse at the Grove at New Castle. “With the nonstop fight through COVID — and the horrors we have been through the last few years, everybody from maintenance all the way up to LPN deserves a fair wage.”
“We fought for decent wages back in the ‘90s — and we are still fighting for the same things now in 2022,” said Shelly Robinson, Certified Nursing Assistant at Rose City since 1993. “Still to this day, we are asking for basic rights and fair wages. All we want is to be treated with respect and decency — for the sake of our residents, our families.”
“COVID really took a big hit and a lot out of workers — it was incredibly hard and painful to watch our patients die from COVID every single day,” said Karen Hipple, Licensed Practical Nurse for a Guardian nursing home in western PA. “And because of that, we have lost a lot of staff, and still have not rebounded, so it is constantly all hands on deck.
“We are a team, but staffing is so critical, and it is getting very ridiculous.”
All three of these workers recounted that on any given shift, they are solely responsible for anywhere from about 21 to 30 residents.
“Folks have gone to work with some of the most deplorable conditions you could imagine during such challenging times, and every single nursing home worker and every single Pennsylvania resident in a nursing home deserves better care,” said Matt Yarnell, President of the SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. “Every one of these companies can do the right thing.
“People are not a number on a spreadsheet — people need to be treated with respect as these workers are being put through hell, and it's outrageous.”
Today workers are ratifying a contract with Guardian Health Care, but Ferritto made clear that in the event of a strike the trade unionists will honor and respect SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania picket lines.
The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO represents 700,000 workers from 51 International Unions, and 1,422 Locals in all of Pennsylvania's 67 counties.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Linked below is the Zoom recording from the roundtable: