Nursing Home Operators Stiff Staff In Violation Of New Florida Minimum Wage RequirementDecember 9, 2022
Caregiver Union Fights For Workers Providing Care To Florida’s Most Elderly, Vulnerable Patients
MIAMI---Essential long-term care workers across Florida are being shortchanged by nursing home operators in violation of a new state legislation requiring a $15 per hour minimum wage, according to 199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, Florida’s largest union of nursing home and hospital caregivers.
The budget provision was designed to address the critical staffing and retention crisis in Florida’s healthcare facilities, and provide better pay for the lowest-wage workers who serve the state’s most elderly and vulnerable patients. The new rule allocated extra funding for facilities to pass through to staff effective October 1, 2022, but only about half of facilities are complying with these requirements. The other half are withholding extra pay for contracted workers and keeping the extra funding for themselves.
Approximately 3,000 nursing home workers are represented by 1199SEIU in about 80 facilities in Florida. Overall, there are about 700 nursing homes in the state.
“For-profit nursing home companies in Florida, often owned by private equity firms driven solely by money, already receive billions in taxpayer dollars that are supposed to pay for care to our seniors,” said, Margarette Nerette, Vice President of Long-Term Care for 1199SEU. “Ignoring the new legislation, keeping the money and denying workers who need the wages the most is this industry’s latest brazen cash grab. We’re talking about them stuffing millions of dollars in their pockets that were specifically budgeted for essential workers.”
The new rules covers staff who are part of the direct care team to keep patients safe, comfortable, clean and living in dignity, such as Certified Nursing Assistants, dietary workers, as well as housekeeping and maintenance staff.
These caregivers in facilities at the “ground zero” of Covid-19 have risked their own lives and health to serve seniors for almost three years throughout the pandemic, yet still many earn less than $15 per hour. Low wages and dangerous conditions have deeply exacerbated a staffing and retention issue that puts seniors and their caregivers at further risk.
“Not having enough staff means patients need to wait longer for meals, to be bathed and many other important areas of care,” said Marie Ange Jeanty, a dietary worker at Regents Park nursing home in Aventura. She has worked at the facility for 17 years, and like many of her co-workers, still is paid less than $15 per hour. “Staff shortages put much more strain on workers like me trying to provide quality care, yet we’re still not paid a living wage. We struggle to pay our bills every month. The extra pay we’re supposed to be receiving would make a real difference in our lives.”
Members and representatives of 1199SEIU, who fought in support the legislation in the first place, are now calling for lawmakers to force nursing home companies, including their contractors and subcontractors, to pay the new proper wages. Caregivers and staff also are rallying within their facilities to convince operators to comply with the rules immediately through “walks on the boss,” bargaining calls and other actions.
A list of Florida facilities “stiffing staff” and those paying the proper new wage has been compiled by 1199SEIU at www.everyminutecountsflorida.org.
“The good players should be highlighted and the bad actors need to be called out,” said Nerette. “All workers deserve a living wage, especially those already struggling with low pay and who perform such an important role taking care of our parents, grandparents and other elderly loved ones.”
For more information on 1199SEIU, visit www.1199SEIU.org/Florida.
1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest union of healthcare workers in Florida, representing about 25,000 active and retired caregivers across the state. Members of 1199SEIU serve in about 80 Florida nursing homes and 30 hospitals.