More than 60 nursing home caregivers at Oak Ridge Nursing and Rehabilitation Center picketed in front of their nursing home today to protest a potential loss of their healthcare benefits and to call for a fair labor contract.
Caregivers at Oak Ridge have been in negotiations with their employer for more than a year. Approximately 85 certified nursing assistants, dietary aides, laundry and housekeeping employees who provide daily care and support for the elderly and disabled are fighting to maintain their existing health benefits and secure minimal wage increases that keep pace with the increased cost of living.
“I have a daughter who is sick right now. She’s on my insurance, and I don’t know what I’ll do if lose my benefits,” said Lynette Barrett who has worked as a certified nursing assistant at Oak Ridge for 15 years. “What they are doing is really unfair. They don’t want to pay for our health insurance. They don’t want to give us any raises. Our work isn’t getting any easier, and prices are going up. It’s getting harder and harder to make ends meet.”
Despite more than a year of bargaining, no agreement has yet been reached between union representatives and management who has, so far, refused to pay the additional contributions needed to maintain current benefit levels. If no agreement is reached soon, the workers risk to lose their health insurance altogether, putting them and the vulnerable residents they care for at risk.
Oak Ridge is owned by Revera Health Systems, a Connecticut-based firm that owns 30 skilled care centers across the United States, including 10 in New Jersey.
“The workers at Oak Ridge have been in contract negotiations for more than a year now,” said Milly Silva, 1199SEIU Executive Vice President for New Jersey. “The work they do is so important, and yet they are some of the lowest-paid workers in New Jersey. It’s time for them to get a fair contract, so they can have stability while raising their families and better contribute to their communities and the economy.”
Today’s action aims to inform elected officials and the wider public about the need for caregivers to secure access to affordable healthcare in all of New Jersey’s nursing facilities in order to maintain the quality of resident care and to ensure healthy environments for our state’s most frail and vulnerable residents.