1199SEIU Nursing Home Workers At Ascension Living at Our Lady Of Peace in Lewiston Will Strike Tomorrow 3/9March 8, 2022
Caregivers are demanding competitive wages & better staffing levels
WHO: 1199SEIU Nursing Home Workers at Ascension Living at Our Lady of Peace
WHAT: One-Day Strike
WHEN: Wednesday, March 9, 2022
Visual: 7am Workers Walk Out
Visual & Interviews: 1pm Rally & Press Conference
Special Guest Speaker: Congressman Brian Higgins
WHERE: Ascension Living at Our Lady of Peace
5285 Lewiston Road, Lewiston, NY 14092
WHY: Caregivers are demanding competitive wages and better staffing levels from Ascension Living at Our Lady of Peace, a subsidiary of one of the largest Catholic Health systems in the United States 1 based in St. Louis, Missouri.
Ascension Living at Our Lady of Peace caregivers have been working without a contract since December 31, 2021 when their 16-month contract expired.
Union caregivers voted to authorize a one-day strike and in response, Ascension Living issued letters threatening workers with a five-day lock-out. Last week, 1199SEIU filed an unfair labor practice charge with National Labor Relations board alleging that Ascension Living was in violation of worker’s rights under the law.
Yesterday, Ascension Living decided not to lock-out workers for 4 days longer than their one-day strike. “I think Ascension living was embarrassed by threatening to lock-us out,” says Krista Diez, Licensed Practical Nurse. “Management saw that everyone is on board for the strike. We will do what it takes to get the wages everyone needs so we can get some staff in here to help care for these residents,” says Diez.
“We didn’t fold when management threatened to lock us out, we grew stronger,” says Brendella Pryor, Certified Nurse Assistant. “We are ready for whatever is coming next,” says Pryor.
“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 Living 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
“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. “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.
1199SEIU asked a federal mediator to join talks in hopes of reaching an agreement with Ascension Living. “We are doing everything we can to avoid a strike,” Bogdanove.
“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.
Last week, 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.
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.4, 5
In fiscal year 2021, Ascension Living reported a net income of 5.7 billion dollars,6 while receiving $1.8 billion in federal grants.7
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.
Unit closures and pending lay-offs have not alleviated 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.8
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 Report asserts that Ascension Health hospitals engaged in anti-union activity | Fierce Healthcare
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 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
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