1199SEIU Caregivers At Ascension Living Nursing Home in Upstate New York Plan Strike Amid Staffing Crisis & Unit Closures Exacerbated By Low WagesFebruary 28, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: April Ezzell, 1199SEIU Communications (716) 449-1620
Critically Short-Staffed Caregivers Vote Unanimously To Strike To Protect Quality Care For Residents, Management Threatens Workers With 5-Day Lock Out
St. Louis, MO – This month, unionized healthcare workers at one of the largest Catholic Health systems in the United States
More than 150 nursing home workers at Ascension Living at Our Lady of Peace in Lewiston will strike to protect quality care if an agreement is not reached at their next bargaining session scheduled for Wednesday, March 2nd.
St. Louis based Ascension Living sent letters to workers threatening a five-day unpaid lockout if planned strike for March 9th proceeds.
“We will strike to help our residents,” says Jacqulyn Vincent, Licensed Practical Nurse. “We need more staff and we can’t get more workers without decent wages and benefits,” says Vincent.
Earlier this month, 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 in the rural community of Lewiston, New York located minutes from Niagara Falls and the Canadian border. Workers believe that securing competitive wages will help to recruit and retain caregivers at the nursing home. “When we don’t have enough staff, residents don’t get that extra attention that they need – they can feel neglected at times,” says Krista Diez, Licensed Practical Nurse.
“Right now, we only have enough staff to meet basic needs, not the extras that our residents love. Our resident’s mental health suffers if they don’t have that extra face to face time with us. They need human interaction, and we can’t provide that if there aren’t enough of us,” says Diez.
“We can’t get people to come work for low wages,” says Daniel Martinucci, Maintenance Technician. “Our wages are really low compared to other nursing homes in WNY. If Ascension is serious about staffing our local nursing home properly, they need to improve the wage scale,” says Martinucci. Wages offered by St. Louis, Missouri based Ascension Living are not keeping up with nursing home wages offered in Western New York.2,3
Unit closures and pending lay-offs have not alleviated staffing crisis at the rural nursing home. Unit closures have lowered the amount of available beds in the area that could help to ease overflow at area hospitals dealing with COVID-19. 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.4
1199SEIU asked a federal mediator to join talks in hopes of reaching an agreement. “We are doing everything we can to avoid a strike,” says Grace Bogdanove, 1199SEIU Vice-President. “However, we cannot ignore the staffing crisis at Our Lady of Peace, or the fact that Ascension Living has closed down three units. Ascension Living must offer competitive wages that will recruit and retain healthcare workers. This will help to remediate the staffing crisis so that workers can spend more time caring for their residents,” says Bogdanove.
This isn’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 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.
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