Caregivers gathered for a vigil in front of Delaire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center today in Linden to demand a fair contract for the nursing home’s caregivers.More than 60 certified nurse’s assistants, dietary aides, housekeeping and other employees turned out to support their co-workers.
Demonstrators flanked the road bearing signs that read “Fair Contract Now” and “Protect our Health Insurance” while chanting and drumming in a event that was lively and often emotional.
Congressional District 10 candidates Wayne Smith and Newark Councilman Ron Rice were also in attendance. Rice addressed the crowd emphasizing the importance of the work the caregivers perform. “We know there’s a tough economy,” said Rice, “but you don’t cut the bread and butter of your business to cut costs and save dollars. You invest in what makes your business strong. We’re telling the owner here, ‘Invest in your workers.’”
Pastor Joseph Thelusca from the Church of the Oranges led a prayer to close the event, offering his church’s support and hopes that their employer would do the right thing. Other progressive groups including New Labor, the Teamsters, and other unions also turned out.
Keisha Perez who has worked at as a certified nurse’s assistant at Delaire for six years explained, “I’m expecting a baby in August, and I know my co-workers have families, too. Management has tried to offer us some cheap insurance plan. But we want benefits that are actually going to mean something, ones we can depend on.”
Workers at Delaire have been in contract negotiations with their employer for more than a year. They are fighting to maintain existing healthcare benefits and secure minimal wage increases that keep pace with the increasing cost of living. At the center of the dispute is a proposal by management to swap workers’ existing insurance, managed jointly by employers and the union, with a private plan. The move is widely opposed by workers.
“Every day these caregivers are exposed to injury and infection. They know what they need to stay healthy on the job,” said Milly Silva 1199 SEIU Executive Vice President in New Jersey. “Management’s proposal is penny-wise and pound-foolish. We know that cutting corners with their insurance will only jeopardize workers' health and put residents at risk. This is simply too important."