Williamsville Nursing Home Workers Will Strike on Wednesday 5/17 Over Poor Working Conditions, Chronic Short Staffing, Below Average Wages & BenefitsMay 16, 2023
Contact: April.Ezzell@1199.org, 1199SEIU Communications (716)449-1620
Interview & Visual Opportunity at 7am
Some owners of Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Nursing Center at Williamsville under investigation by NYS Attorney General for alleged misuse of $18 Million in Medicaid funding for personal profit, while residents were neglected and suffered due to chronic understaffing1
WHO: Nursing Home Workers
WHAT: One-Day Strike
WHEN: Wednesday, May 17, 2023 starting at 7:00 am
WHY? Approximately 34 workers at Comprehensive Rehabilitation & Nursing Center at Williamsville, which includes all Licensed Practical Nurses, Certified Nurse Assistants, Housekeeping Aides, Laundry Aides, Dietary Cooks, and Dietary Aides, at the 142-bed facility will hold one-day strike on Wednesday starting at 7:00 am. Caregivers have been working without a union contract since December 31, 2022 when their 3-year contract expired.
Nursing home workers held an informational picket in March when contract negotiations began to stall with the embattled out-of-town ownership group. Caregivers are represented by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest healthcare workers union in the country.
“Short staffing effects the quality of care, said Ivan Tidwell, Licensed Practical Nurse. “We don’t have enough staff to cover the shifts and the residents might suffer because their care is delayed. We need more in-house workers to help to take care of our residents and to do that we need a fair contract,” said Tidwell.
Recruiting and retaining long-term employees is key to continuity of care for residents. “I’ve been here 27 years and we need to make a change,” said Sally Beiter, Dietary Aide. I have to think about retirement and can’t do that without a pension and better wages,” said Beiter.
Caregivers will strike to protect quality care for residents including better working conditions at the aging facility in Williamsville. Workers are demanding competitive wages to retain and recruit regular staff to care for residents and improved benefits for workers such as pension and health insurance. Chronic short staffing and the employer’s offer of minimum wage rates are key issues in contract talks. Approximately 45% of the workers at the facility are earning less than $15 per hour.
Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Nursing Center at Williamsville is a one-star facility which in recent years has seen high staff turnover rates – notably higher than the national average according to US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services2 .
Nursing home workers are seeking community support and have launched a public campaign to draw attention to their working conditions and lack of fair contract. Caregivers are asking the community, resident families, and elected officials to contact the employer asking them to negotiate a fair contract with better working conditions and competitive wages.
Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Nursing Center at Williamsville owners have ties to Villages of Orleans and are named in the NYS Attorney General’s lawsuit against the Villages at Orleans. According to NYS Department of Health, the owners of Comprehensive at Williamsville are Ephram Lahasky, David Gast, Joshua Farkovits, Samuel Halper, Debbie Korngut, Teresa Lichtstein, and Jeffrey Arem3. All owners are named in the lawsuit except Jeffrey Arem.
Caregivers at the bargaining table are also fighting to keep language in the contract that protects their union and hard-earned benefits. During contract negotiations this month, management proposed eliminating the successorship clause which is common language in contracts and protects workers’ wages and benefits from being weakened or eliminated should a facility change ownership. 1199SEIU requested a Federal Mediator to join negotiations prior to this week’s one-day strike. Following the strike, workers are set to return on Thursday, May 18 at 7:00am.
Some of the undisclosed owners of Comprehensive at Williamsville are also cited as defendants in the New York State Attorney General’s lawsuit against Villages of Orleans including Ephraim Lahasky, David Gast, Samuel Halper, Joshua Farkovitis, Teresa Lichtschein, and her daughter in law Debbie Korgnut.
The New York State Attorney General’s lawsuit against Villages of Orleans owners years of financial fraud which resulted in resident neglect and harm. Part of the lawsuit alleges that the owners misused more than $18 million in Medicaid funding to increase personal profits through related party transactions4. The lawsuit alleges that owners too advantage of the state’s Medicaid funding to increase their personal profits instead of using funds to properly staff the facility and to invest in resident care.
“Under New York law, owners of nursing homes have a special obligation to provide a high level of care and quality of life for residents,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “The Villages’ owners failed in their duty to residents by engaging in a scheme to divert funds away from the facility to increase their personal profit, drastically cutting staff at the facility to do so,” said James.
The lawsuit alleges that a history of insufficient staffing and low quality of care is traceable to the owner’s financial scheme to divert funding for residents to their personal profits. ###
1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in America. We represent over 400,000 nurses and caregivers throughout Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Florida. Our mission is to achieve quality care and good jobs for all. www.1199seiu.org
. 1 Attorney General James Sues Orleans County Nursing Home for Years of Fraud and Resident Neglect | New York State Attorney General (ny.gov)
2 US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Nursing Homes including rehab services data archive, 2016-2023, Provider Info, available online at: https://data.cms.gov/provider-data/archived-data/nursing-homes
3 NYS DOH, 2020 RHCF-4 Cost Report, Comprehensive at Williamsville, Opcert # 1421308, Prefatory-1, Ownership Information Operations.
4 Attorney General James Sues Orleans County Nursing Home for Years of Fraud and Resident Neglect | New York State Attorney General (ny.gov)