After months of stalled negotiations with their employer, Michael Konig, more than 300 New Jersey 1199SEIU nursing home workers have a new contract that was ratified by the membership at three facilities this week.
The workers at Manhattan View Nursing Home in Union City, Teaneck Nursing Center in Teaneck and Amboy Care in Perth Amboy say that they were not asking for anything unreasonable, but simply the resources to enable them to do their jobs well and deliver quality care, while they also provide for their own families.
Highlights of the agreement include two percent annual wage increases for 2012-2014 and employer-funded health and pension benefits.
“I am relieved because I have student loans to pay,” said Gina Gonzalez-Diaz, a certified nursing assistant at Manhattan View. “Fair wages and benefits for the work we do is not a lot to ask for the quality care we give.”
Geraldine Ballentine, a C.N.A. at Teaneck Nursing Center said, “I feel relieved that we didn’t have to strike and leave our residents not knowing who will be taking care of them. We’ve developed a such a close relationship and I want to be sure they are being properly taken care of.”
Shirley Cumberbatch, a housekeeper at Amboy Care put it simply. “We need better health insurance for our families, a secure pension plan to retire with peace of mind, a wage increase to provide for our children and respect from management.”
Some of New Jersey’s most prominent elected officials supported the workers and signed on to a letter encouraging the employer to “do all that you can to reach a fair settlement, that takes into consideration the critically important work your employees do, not just for your company, but for the community as well.” They included U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg, U.S. Representatives Frank Pallone and Albio Sires, State Senate President Steve Sweeney, State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald.
“We are pleased that we were able to come to a fair and just settlement with the employer,” said 1199 Executive Vice President Milly Silva. “The agreement will help to raise standards for healthcare workers in New Jersey. These dedicated long-term caregivers love their residents and work tirelessly, caring for the most frail and elderly people in our community--and they do it with great skill and compassion. They deserve the dignity and respect of earning a living wage to support their own families, as they care for the families of complete strangers.”