Lewiston Nursing Home Workers Unanimously Vote To Ratify 20-Month Agreement With Largest Catholic Health System in U.S.

April 4, 2022

Contact: April Ezzell, 1199SEIU | (716)449‐1620

Following a one-day strike and protests on steps of Ascension Headquarters in St. Louis, local Niagara County caregivers finally win contract!

Lewiston, NY – More than 150 nursing home workers at Ascension Living at Our Lady of Peace in Lewiston are celebrating a huge victory against a subsidiary of the nation’s largest Catholic Health system. Caregivers have been working without a contract since December 31, 2021 when their 16-month contract expired. The unionized healthcare workers are represented by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

Workers held a ratification vote on Friday, April 1st following several days of intense negotiations with a Federal Mediator and Ascension Living’s management.

Nursing home workers were united and ready to stand up to secure a better future including wages that would help to recruit and retain workers to care for residents! The Niagara County caregivers won a 20-month agreement that includes new higher starting wage rates and significant raises that credit years of experience for all bargaining unit members. The agreement also includes a one-time bonus of $1,000 for full-time and $500 bonus for part-time workers. Workers maintained their current health insurance plans and won increases in employer contribution to dental and optical insurance. The agreement also includes over a 7% increase in the employers’ pension contribution.

Workers will also see a 10% increase to payout of unused extended illness bank hours upon retirement and increases in shift differential amongst all job titles. Caregivers won daily overtime after 7.5 hours and weekly overtime after 37.5 hours. In response to worker concerns regarding ascension’s refusal to negotiate hazard pay throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Ascension Living agreed to negotiations with the union should another public health emergency arise.

“We are pleased that Ascension Living is finally working with us to get more staff in the building to help us take care of our residents,” says Krista Diez, Licensed Practical Nurse. “Now that we have finally settled, this should open up opportunities to bring in more staff,” says Jacqulyn Vincent, Licensed Practical Nurse.

“I’m pleased that every department was recognized, resulting in a better wage scale,” says Daniel Martinucci, Maintenance Technician. “We are thankful for the support from our community and all those who stood by us during these past months,” says Martinucci.

“This is the first time that we have ever gotten a real raise,” says Yedda Burton, Certified Nurse Assistant. “This is the biggest victory for all of us. We fought hard against a huge company and we won,” says Burton.

The Niagara County nursing home workers held a one-day strike last month and were threatened with a four day lock-out by their St. Louis based employer. Probationary workers were written up for participating in the strike, which is against Catholic teachings.1 1199SEIU filed labor board charges on both issues, alleging that locking out workers for longer than their one-day strike is against worker’s rights and that probationary workers have the right to participate in job actions. Ascension Living subsequently rescinded the lock-out threat and removed the write-ups from probationary employee’s records.

Caregivers at Ascension Living at Our Lady of Peace are Registered Nurses, Nurse Assistant, Certified Nurse Assistant-Rehabilitation, Certified Rehabilitation Aide, Direct Care Nurse (Graduate PN), Environmental Services Operator, Housekeeping Aide, Laundry Aide, Licensed Practical Nurse, Maintenance Technician, Nurse Assistant Student, Nutrition Services Aide, Nutrition Services Cook, Cook's Assistant, Porter/Dishwasher, Recreational Aide, Registered Staff Nurses, Senior Housekeeping Aide, and Unit Attendants.


Wages offered by St. Louis, Missouri based Ascension Living were not keeping up with nursing home wages offered in Western New York.2, 3

Unit closures and pending lay-offs did not alleviate the staffing crisis. Closures have lowered the amount of available beds in the area. Ascension Living at Our Lady of Peace started closing units in November 2020. According to US Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the facility is currently 48% occupied, well below the 83% New York State average Workers participated in a one-day strike in March. Ascension Living threatened to lock-out caregivers for four days longer than their one-day strike. 1199SEIU filed labor board charges alleging that locking out workers for longer than the one-day planned strike was a violation of worker’s rights. Ascension Living subsequently rescinded.

Following the one-day strike, Ascension Living management wrote-up probationary workers who participated in the strike. 1199SEIU filed a second labor charge alleging that probationary workers are allowed to participate in job actions. Ascension Living later removed the write-ups from worker’s files and subsequently issued the impacted workers apologies. Not allowing workers to participate in job actions is against Catholic teachings. 4 This wasn’t Ascension Living’s only labor dispute. Wisconsin Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals are also demanding fair wages, COVID pay and better staffing from Ascension Living. 5, 6 In fiscal year 2021, Ascension Living reported a net income of 5.7 billion dollars, 7 while receiving $1.8 billion in federal grants.8. 9

In mid-March, a delegation of caregivers from Ascension Living at Our Lady of Peace traveled to the steps of Ascension’s Headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri to demand a fair contract10. Healthcare workers formed a coalition of labor partners and community groups to attract attention to their contract fight. Coalition partners included AFL-CIO, The WNY Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, St. Louis Central Labor Council, SEIU Healthcare Missouri and Jobs With Justice.

During their campaign, a mobile billboard featuring caregivers drove throughout the Niagara County area asking residents to sign a petition in support of their fight for a fair contract. Workers also distributed leaflets to Lewiston area businesses advising the community about the impending one-day strike.

In February, dozens of workers participated in an informational picket to call attention to Ascension Living’s closure of units and lack of competitive wages. Workers say improved wages that meet the area standards of pay are needed to attract more workers to care for the most vulnerable residents. Workers believe that securing competitive wages will help to recruit and retain caregivers at the nursing home.


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. https://www.1199seiu.org

1 Wave of worker strikes resurrects our call to solidarity | National Catholic Reporter (ncronline.org)
2 Nursing home workers in Buffalo, Rochester new contract (spectrumlocalnews.com)
3 Getzville nursing home workers say they have ‘historic’ contract agreement, but pending sale is once again holding it up | WBFO
4 Ascension nursing home caregivers fight for better wages, additional staffing | National Catholic Reporter (ncronline.org)
5 Op-Ed: Please, Ascension Wisconsin, Respect Your Workers » Urban Milwaukee
6 Ascension Nurses Are Speaking Out All Across Michigan - International Brotherhood of Teamsters
7 Ascension bounces back with $5.7B net income (beckershospitalreview.com)
8 Hospital chain Ascension has weathered the pandemic just fine - Axios
9 U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, COVID-19 Nursing Home Data, last updated Jan 30, 2022, available online at: https://data.cms.gov/covid-19/covid-19-nursing-home-data
10 St. Louis Labor unions rally with 1199SEIU NY nursing home workers to demand fair wages from Ascension Living - The Labor Tribune