Unaffordable health benefits will no longer burden workers at 2 Hudson Valley nursing homes--Wingate at Dutchess and Wingate at Ulster. In July, the members unanimously ratified their first 1199SEIU collective bargaining agreement, after 2 years of negotiations. The workers fought hard and won the 1199SEIU Greater New York Benefit Fund (starting in 2020); a health plan that has little to no premiums, no deductibles, zero to minimal co-pays for participating or non-participating providers, no charge for generic or preferred brand prescriptions, no charge for participating urgent care providers, and excellent prescription dental and vision care benefits.

“The contract not only helps us survive – it helps ensure continuity of care for the residents, because now that we have better wages, protections against unfair discipline and greatly improved health benefits, people won’t leave the job as often,” said Maxine Sproul, a C.N.A. at Wingate at Dutchess and a Negotiating Committee member

The members persevered despite a rocky rollercoaster ride. “Certainly, our victory was not just handed to us. We didn’t expect it would be -- you have to fight for what is right – but being patient helped too,” said Gwendolyn Jones, a C.N.A at Wingate at Ulster.

“Just when we thought we could see the light at the end of the tunnel, there would be another obstacle. When we organized 2 years ago—we were looking for economic security and a voice on the job --- and 2 years later, the same problems existed, because we didn’t have a contract. So many people couldn’t afford the health insurance offered by the employer, so they would leave for jobs where they could have insurance. The constant turnover wasn’t good for anyone especially the residents,” said Jones.

Sproul, echoed Jones’ sentiment about the struggle. “We knew we would eventually get past the bumps, and that it was just a matter of time, but we had been knocked down so many times. And then -- we got stronger – not weaker! Over the last few years we distributed petitions, walked in to management and held a candlelight vigil with good community support. Each time, our voices got louder and our message more clear.”

Sproul says the fight illustrated the workers’ commitment to quality care. “We love our jobs, we love our residents -- but when co-workers are always leaving for better wages and benefits, continuity of care suffers. We’re confident that this hard-fought contract, with good wages and benefits and fair workplace provisions, will help Wingate maintain staff, reduce turnover, and enrich overall quality care for our residents.”

The employer also agreed to not interfere with the efforts of workers at Wingate at Beacon to become 1199SEIU members. The Beacon facility is one of 3 nursing homes in the Hudson Valley owned and operated by Wingate Healthcare.