Caregivers across New Jersey picketed their workplaces on May 30 to protest the potential loss of health benefits crucial for keeping them and the residents they care for healthy and safe.
The caregivers work in three nursing homes, Teaneck Nursing Center, Manhattanview Health Care Center in Union City, and Amboy Care Center in Perth Amboy. All are managed by Broadway Healthcare Management in Hackensack, and are currently in contract negotiations with their employees.
More than 120 certified nurse’s assistants, dietary aides, housekeeping and other employees turned out to support their co-workers. Demonstrators at all three locations bore signs that read “Fair Contract Now” and “Protect our Health Insurance” while chanting and drumming in a truly statewide event that garnered the attention of many elected officials and much of the press.
For the caregivers at Teaneck Nursing Center and elsewhere, Congressman Steven Rothman from New Jersey's 9th district spoke out about the need for the nursing homes’ management to ensure the continuation of employee health benefits vital to their work.
"I continue to stand with 1199 SEIU and all workers in our fight for fair pay and benefits. Healthcare workers should not be threatened with the loss of health coverage, putting the individuals they care for and the workers’ own families at risk. Management must do more to provide a healthier and fairer workplace and an environment where the residents of their nursing homes have access to the best care possible.”
Manhattanview Health Care Center picketers were encouraged by the words of Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, Jr. from the 33rd district.
“I stand with the healthcare workers in their fight for a living wage. It only makes sense that we take appropriate care of those who we are asking to care for our loved ones."
For those picketing outside Amboy Care Center today, chairman of the NJ Democratic Committee and Assemblyman John Wizniewski had the following remarks.
“A fair contract ensures economical wages and benefits and a guarantee of a safe work environment that rewards employees for their hard work and sacrifices in support of our community health care institutions. These caregivers not only work in Perth Amboy, but many also live in the city and, along with their families, make significant contributions to the region’s economy."
Also from the 19th district, Senator Joseph F. Vitale and Assemblyman Craig J. Coughlin released their own statement of support.
“We stand in solidarity with the hardworking men and women of 1199 SEIU,” the statement read. “We urge Amboy Care’s management to negotiate a new contract in good faith that reflects a living wage.”
Elisha Ramos Simo who has worked at as a certified nurse’s assistant at Manhattanview Health Care Center for five years explained, “Keeping my health insurance is so important to me, because I have a sick husband who has asthma. My co-workers and I all really depend on our health benefits, and we’re going to continue to fight hard to keep what we have.”
“These caregivers are being exposed to injury and infection as part of their daily work. The fact that they could soon be without medical insurance is something that should deeply disturb our communities and those in charge of our seniors’ health,” said Milly Silva 1199 SEIU Executive Vice President in New Jersey. “Caregivers are simply asking for what they need to continue doing their jobs safely, to protect their residents and their own families.”