Nursing Home Members Prevail

January 6, 2022

Members celebrate victory in a tough fight with hundreds of owners at once.


It is said that: “The race is not given to the swift or to the strong, but to the one who endures to the end.” This has rarely been more apt than when 33,000 members from 249 nursing homes in the greater New York metropolitan area reached a contract agreement with their employers on the brink of the first large scale 1199SEIU strike in more than three decades.

The road to victory was long and hard, but members who worked together through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic were never going to settle for anything less. Cassandra Anderson, a CNA at Regency Extended Care in Yonkers and a veteran on the negotiating committee, felt this sense of urgency: “This time was different because of the pandemic and how we were treated. We lost residents, co-workers, and family members because of COVID. It was personal so I was negotiating not just for us, but for all of those we lost ... to show it wasn’t all in vain.”

CassandraAnderson.jpgShe talks about a lack of attention from management in her facility during the peak of the pandemic.

“ I can walk into [my facility] with my head held high. This is what happens when you don’t give up the fight.”

– Cassandra Anderson, CNA at Regency Extended Care, Yonkers

“It felt like all along, they didn’t care about us. I would walk past another assisted living facility and see a ‘Heroes Work Here’ sign out front, but the owners of Regency didn’t do anything. I had to gather money myself to hold a small memorial paying respects for those staff and residents who died.”

At the end of September, tens of thousands of 1199 members won an excellent contract with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes, setting standards for upcoming nursing home bargaining. But, early on, nursing home owners made wages and bonuses a sticking point. In response, members took action, held walk-ins and informational pickets and got into “good trouble,” culminating in the Together We Stand: March and Rally on November 17th where thousands of 1199ers took over Times Square.

The owners and the media noticed, especially when Governor Kathy Hochul and the two major candidates who were then vying to take over her role, NY Attorney General Leticia James and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams addressed the crowd and promised support.

MarciaSmith.jpgMarcia Smith, a CNA at Caring Family Nursing Home in Queens felt a sense of family and pride at the rally. “I’ve been with the Union for 15 years and this was my first real rally. When I saw the crowd, I felt like this is what 1199 is really all about. If we stick together, we can make things happen.”

When the profit-minded owners still refused to budge on wages and wouldn’t commit to funding health benefits for thousands of nursing home heroes, members prepared for one-day strikes at their nursing homes, from Long Island to the Catskills. Finally realizing they couldn’t run their homes without the dedicated workers, the owners agreed to a fair contract, less than 36 hours before the planned walkout was due to begin.

It’s a tremendous victory that includes guaranteed annual raises over the life of the contract (3.5%, 3% and 3%) in addition to a $1,500 recognition bonus. Health, Pension, Training, Job Security and Child Care Funds are protected, and there is a new process for members who are not currently covered by 1199 Funds to get full coverage.

Like the League contract, members now have Juneteenth as an additional paid holiday.

“I’m so proud of this contract— the whole thing,” said Anderson. “It’s the camaraderie and standing together—it means a lot. I can walk into [my facility] with my head held high and would definitely love to have a party to celebrate. This is what happens when you don’t give up the fight.”

Marcia Smith, a first-time delegate agrees, “I’ll never forget this: It was a learning experience.

We got more money in our pockets, and we got a new holiday. We showed up and didn’t back down. It’s not just about the money and bonus, it’s the long-term effect of it: It’s a great contract!”

“ I can walk into [my facility] with my head held high. This is what happens when you don’t give up the fight.”

1199 Magazine | November - December 2021