One hundred and thirty Certified Nursing Assistants at Waterview and Salem Hills Rehabilitation Centers in Purdys, NY voted overwhelmingly on May 11 to join 1199SEIU. These homes are owned by Epic Healthcare Management and, with this victory, 1199 represents all four of this employer’s nursing homes in New York State. The CNAs are joining with their union colleagues at Skyview in Croton-on-Hudson and Middletown Park in Middletown.
Despite management’s vicious anti-union campaign, the workers at Waterview and Salem Hills stood together for a voice in resident care, no-cost healthcare, a strong pension, career advancement opportunities and childcare benefits. The new members cited the need for change at their workplace, particularly in regards to management’s approach to them.
“The issue that we really need to fix is the way management treats us. A lot of the managers don’t treat us with respect,” said Sonia Morgan Jones , who has been a CNA at Salem Hills for almost four years. “There is no job security: they can and do fire workers for no reason. With 1199, we will have our union to advocate for us. Another major issue is the healthcare, which is extremely expensive. I have a 10-year-old daughter to take care of, and it’s been very rough financially. Several times, I have been forced to cancel doctor’s appointments because I couldn’t afford the co-pay. As healthcare workers, we deserve the excellent benefits that 1199 provides.”
Tallea Richards, who has been a CNA at Waterview for six years, echoed this sentiment. “I have friends who work in 1199 facilities, and they have told me great things about the health insurance,” she said. “Right now I pay $40 to see the regular doctor and up to $55 to see a specialist. I was forced to take my children off of Waterview’s health insurance, because I couldn’t afford to pay for them and pay my rent. With 1199, I will be able to better take care of my children. I am also excited about the educational fund because it will pay for me to advance my career by studying to become an LPN.”
Rayama Gamble, who has been at Salem Hills for almost 12 years, said that this victory will benefit the residents as well as the workers. “Management often pulls us away from our residents for meetings, which makes it difficult for us to provide the best care. With 1199, we will sit down with management and negotiate a contract that will protect the workers and the people we care for.”
Audrey Smith, who will celebrate six years with Salem Hills in June, added that staffing issues impact care. “There are times when we are short staffed and we need to work even harder than usual. At those times, we can’t give our residents the time that they deserve. Management also only pays us for seven hours of our eight hour shifts, even though we never take hour lunch breaks because there is simply too much to get done.”
Yola Daguilar, also at Salem Hills for nearly six years, said that she is glad to be unified with her co-workers. “The first victory was voting yes for our union, and the next victory will be winning an excellent contract!”