Want to Join 1199?

On Friday, November 20, another group of nursing home workers, this time licensed practical nurses (LPNs), voted unanimously to join their co-workers as members of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. The LPNs at Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Williamsville, N.Y. have come together with more than 100 certified nursing assistants (CNAs), service and clerical workers at the nursing home who are already members of the powerful healthcare workers union. Those workers are currently in negotiations with Comprehensive, the Long Island-based company that purchased the former St. Francis Nursing Home from the Catholic Health System in 2014. The sale was finally approved by the NYS Department of Health in May 2015.

Ivan Tidwell has been an LPN at the Williamsville nursing home for 8 years and has worked for the Catholic Health System for 18.

Tidwell said, “We voted to join 1199 because the LPNs, just like our co-workers, need good wages and benefits so we can take care of our families at home, at the same time that we are taking care of others. It’s important for Comprehensive to offer wages and benefits that will allow caregivers to stay here – and not have to look for another job in order to pay the bills. Frail and vulnerable nursing home residents need continuity of care – not a revolving door of nurses.”

Between 2014 and 2015, more and more upstate New York nursing home workers have been voting to become members of 1199, reflecting a trend in the industry, where downstate for-profit investors are buying and operating formerly not-for-profit nursing homes.

Tidwell said that he thinks many nursing home workers today are looking for the same two things that the LPNs at Comprehensive wanted: economic security that comes with a collective bargaining agreement and the strength that comes with being a part of a large union.

“The for-profits are buying and operating upstate nursing homes, and staff is living with uncertainty, concerned about job security, wages and benefits, and again, continuity of care for residents. I think the fact that we voted unanimously says a lot about how workers want to deal with profit-making ownership groups. We need a union more than ever.”

1199SEIU members, often called a “political powerhouse,” also have substantial clout in state and federal politics. This is significant in that nursing homes receive funds from two important government programs, Medicare and Medicare.

Twenty-one LPNs voted to join the union last Friday. On Feb. 18, 2015, the 1199SEIU service workers, CNAs and clerks at Comprehensive in Williamsville voted to authorize a strike, which would have begun 10 days after Comprehensive took ownership of the facility. That strike was averted and negotiations are still taking place. The LPNs, who are in a different bargaining unit, are looking forward to beginning contract negotiations.

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.

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