With More Than A Dozen Long-Term Care Contracts Set To Expire In 2024, Florida Caregivers Unite & Prepare For Bargaining

April 16, 2024

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More than 100 long-term care workers from across Florida gathered in Orlando recently to accomplish one goal – prepare for contract negotiations. Union contracts with 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest healthcare workers union in Florida, are set to expire at dozens of nursing homes this year. As union member leaders in their facilities, it will be up to them to develop and implement plans that will educate, motivate and mobilize their coworkers to get ready to bargain for a new contract that includes fair wages, affordable healthcare and other essentials that could help retain employees and ease the staffing crisis.

“This is a critical time because a lot of planning and preparation is necessary to be ready to negotiate a strong contract,” said Angelette Harley, a cook from Rockledge. “It’s helpful and inspiring to get together with other member leaders from around the state so we can brainstorm and learn from each other.”

The first task for workers was to identify their priorities. Among those topping the list: better wages and staffing ratios, affordable healthcare and retirement security. Workers shared personal stories to illustrate why these issues are important to them and their coworkers.

“The high cost of housing and other living expenses have skyrocketed in Florida. We need higher wages to be able to afford to stay here and take care of our families,” said Christina Chiger, a CNA from Tampa Bay.

The next challenge was to create a field plan to help workers achieve their goals. They came up with a variety of strategies and tactics that will help build strength and unity.

Several elected officials and political candidates joined the meeting to show their support and listen to their stories about how the staffing and retention crisis is impacting their work and the quality of care. Former Florida State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith, a champion for working people who is running for a state senate seat, told the nursing home workers he understands their needs and concerns and he will continue to advocate for them and for quality care.  This was welcome news to the long-term care leaders because they know support from elected officials and the community can be a real asset to their campaign.

“I learned a lot during this bargaining prep meeting. I learned how to calculate the facility’s census and staffing ratios, how to develop a strategic bargaining plan and tactics we can use to build strength. I will take the knowledge I gained here and share it with my coworkers so we’re all ready to work together to achieve our goals,” said CNA Marvalin Mckoy.