Lewiston Nursing Home Workers Hold Picket To Demand Better Staffing Levels & Competitive Wages From St. Louis Based Ascension LivingFebruary 11, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: April Ezzell, 1199SEIU Communications, (716) 449-1620
Union Caregivers Plan Strike Vote
Lewiston, NY – Dozens of workers marched and chanted “Fair Contract Now” in front of Ascension Living at Our Lady of Peace in Lewiston yesterday. More than 150 Nursing home workers at Our Lady of Peace have been working without a union contract since December 31, 2021 when their 16- month contract expired. Caregivers are represented by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East have been negotiating with Ascension Living since early November last year. Yesterday, workers wanted to inform the public of their staffing crisis and unit closures brought on by a lack of competitive wages.
Wage standards for nursing home workers across Western, New York have increased over the last year.1
2 Healthcare workers at Our Lady of Peace say their wages are falling below other caregivers in the area and that their St. Louis, Missouri 3 based employer, Ascension Living isn’t offering competitive wages to recruit and retain staff at the facility. Our Lady of Peace recently closed three units while threatening layoffs, exacerbating the staffing crisis and reducing the amount of nursing home beds available to ease overflow from area hospitals in Niagara County.
Workers are ready to stand up for themselves and the residents they care for. “We are picketing for better wages and benefits so we can continue taking care of your loved ones,” says Yedda Burton, Certified Nurse Assistant. “We are standing together strong in unity,” says Burton.
Workers say wages and use of agency are key sticking point in negotiations with management. “We are not going to have people stay, when they can make money starting somewhere else brand new at the same rate that you get here for being 20 or 30 years,” says Krista Diez, Licensed Practical Nurse. “It just doesn’t make any sense. These residents deserve better and we deserve better,” says Diez.
Ascension Living uses agency workers at many of their facilities across the country. “Ascension relies heavily on agency and pays those workers at a much higher rate, but won’t even pay local dedicated workers the industry standard for our area,” says Hannah Lorenc, 1199SEIU Administrative Organizer. According to Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services Payroll Based Journal, 22 out of 28 Ascension Living facilities use agency workers to staff their facilities.4
“A lot of money has been spent on the building, which is great but the owners need to invest in workers too,” says Brendella Pryor, a Certified Nurse Assistant. “I have worked here for 29 years and it’s how I pay my bills. There’s a lot of places you can go to make more money, but I’ve stayed here for my residents. I’m invested in their care and providing for them. We give good care, we come in and do the work, the hard work and want to be paid a competitive wage,” says Pryor.
While workers and management have been in contract negotiations for several months, no agreement has been reached. Union members were ready to hit the picket line today in hopes of drawing attention to their contract fight. “We made every effort to negotiate fair wages with management, but they didn’t hear us and so we need to make them listen,” says Crescendra Agee, Cook. “They will hear us today – on the picket line,” says Agee.
Community members are concerned. Both community supporters and local politicians walked alongside the caregivers in a show of support and solidarity.
Workers and management do not return to the bargaining table until March 2nd. Union members plan to hold a strike authorization vote in the days ahead.
“We’re gonna stay strong and if we have to, we will strike,” says Burton. Following the press conference, workers gathered out front of Our Lady of Peace chanting: “Strike, strike, strike!”
Caregivers 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