One hundred and seven healthcare workers at FountainView Care Center in Lakewood, NJ, became the newest members of 1199SEIU on March 26 after voting overwhelmingly in favor of forming a union. The caregivers, who work as certified nursing assistants (CNAs), dietary aides, recreation aides, housekeepers, and maintenance workers, see 1199 membership as an opportunity to speak out for better patient care and win improvements on the job.
"We formed a union so we can be voice for our residents," explained Sheila Paravate, a CNA. "Here we are, saving lives and doing hard work, but facing problems of no job security and working short-staffed. This is what motivated us to join 1199."
Jovon Brooks, who works in the dietary department, said, "At first I was skeptical because I didn't know what a union meant and what we were missing out on. But the more I learned about 1199 and the contracts that workers have at other nursing homes, the more I realized how unfair we were being treated. It's not right that we do the exact same job but get less in return."
CNA Gerlisa Davis was an 1199 member at a different nursing home several years ago, and became active in the drive to bring the union to FountainView when the opportunity arose. "I knew that this was our chance to win positive changes, including more affordable health benefits, which is very important to me," she said. "I've been here eight years but had to drop my health insurance because I just can't afford the premiums."
With their union victory, members at FountainView are now preparing to enter contract negotiations where they will continue their advocacy for quality care for patients and good jobs for caregivers.