Housekeepers Among Nursing Home Workers Expected to Strike Next Week

Staff at 51 long-term care centers in Connecticut have been working with expired contracts since March

May 6, 2021

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the country have come out of a rough year due to COVID-19 outbreaks. As a result, many of these facilities are experiencing labor shortages. The demand for nursing home workers in Connecticut may be especially high next week as 33 nursing homes in the state received notifications that unionized staff members working under expired contracts, including housekeepers, are expected to strike on May 14, the Associated Press (AP) reports.

Workers contracts expired on March 15 at 51 nursing homes in Connecticut—a third of the facilities in the state—and have not been renewed. AP reports that 33 of these 51 nursing homes have received strike notifications from their unionized workers if their concerns over better wages, benefits, and staffing ratios are not met. The affected nursing homes—which are owned by the chains Genesis Healthcare, iCare Health Network, RegalCare and Autumn Lake Healthcare—have more than 3,400 workers who are part of the New England Service Employees International Union (SEIU) District 119.

Rob Baril, president of SEIU District 119 told AP, “Connecticut’s long-term care system relies on poverty wages. By going on strike, we are telling nursing home operators and the state of Connecticut that we are not willing to carry the yoke of poverty any longer. It’s time for nursing home bosses and state leaders to pay these workers what they deserve.”

SEIU District 119 said in a statement last month that unionized workers are demanding:

  • A new contract following a proposed Long-Term Care Workers Bill of Right that includes US$20 an hour
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Quality, affordable health insurance
  • Paid sick leave and child care
  • Increased state support for Medicaid reimbursement to facilities.

“We would have in Connecticut a very different type of public health emergency on our hands if we were to have a large scale labor action,” Matt Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities/Connecticut Center for Assisted Living, said during a recent meeting of the state’s Nursing Home Financial Advisory Committee.

Barrett is urging nurse home operators and unionized workers to continue bargaining so workers can remain on the job since there is still an “unprecedented financial stability” because of the pandemic and low occupancy rates.

Barbara Cass, chief of the Healthcare Quality and Safety Branch of the state Department of Public Health, told AP that the agency is prepared for the possibility of strikes at 56 facilities on May 14. Cass said the state plans to send someone to visit every facility at least once a day if a strike does happen.

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