1199SEIU Nursing Home Workers At Ascension Living at Our Lady Of Peace Will Strike 3/9March 4, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: April Ezzell, 1199SEIU Communications (716)449-1620
Union Files Unfair Labor Practice Charge with National Labor Relations Board In Response To Ascension Living’s Threat To Lock-Out Workers Beyond One-Day Strike
Lewiston, NY – More than 150 nursing home workers at Ascension Living at Our Lady of Peace in Lewiston will strike in demand for competitive wages and better staffing levels on Wednesday, March 9th. Negotiations between St. Louis based Ascension Living’s management and union workers broke down over economic issues this week. The nursing home workers are represented by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.
“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.
Last month, union healthcare workers at 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 voted unanimously to authorize a one-day strike. Ascension Living at Our Lady of Peace caregivers have been working without a contract since December 31, 2021 when their 16-month contract expired.
Last week, the union representing workers issued a 10-day strike notice to St. Louis based Ascension Living, a subsidiary of Ascension.
Ascension Living sent letters to workers threatening a five-day unpaid lockout if the planned strike for March 9th proceeds. Union leaders allege that locking out workers beyond the one-day strike is illegal. “This is another way for a large out-of-state company, like Ascension Living to intimidate workers in a small rural community who are only trying to provide the best care to their residents,” says Grace Bogdanove, 1199SEIU Vice-President.
1199SEIU filed an unfair labor practice charge against Ascension Living with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that locking out workers in favor of contracting agency workers for 4 days longer than necessary is a clear violation of worker’s rights under the law.
“We are only doing a one-day strike, but Ascension is locking us out of work for 4 days,” says Daniel Martinucci, Maintenance Technician. “Four days! Ascension is gonna have to pay out of their pocket to hire agency, which is costing them a lot more than what we make. We are just asking for fair wages,” says Martinucci.
“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.
This 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
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