Rural Nursing Home Workers Overwhelmingly Vote To Ratify 2-Year Agreement Averting Week-Long StrikeApril 18, 2023
Caregivers at 4 Southern Tier Healthcare Facilities Win Increased Wages & Benefits, Increased Employer Contributions Towards Health Insurance, Dental, Optical, Paid Juneteenth Holiday and more
Buffalo, NY - More than 200 nursing home workers at four rural facilities in Western New York avoided a week-long strike after they reached a 2-year agreement this month. In a near unanimous vote, caregivers at 4 rural nursing homes ratified their new 2-year contract with Personal Healthcare. In February, caregivers held an informational picket to draw attention to short staffing, lack of fair wages and poor health insurance coverage. In March, 97% voted in favor of a week-long strike after months of negotiations without a fair contract. Union nursing home workers are represented by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest healthcare workers union in the country.
The new 2-year agreement could bring much needed relief to beleaguered caregivers in the 4 rural townships. Caregivers work at Salamanca Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, Dunkirk Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, Eden Rehabilitation and Nursing Center and Houghton Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.
“It means that they are actually starting to recognize service workers for what they do,” said Cheryl Lariviere, Housekeeping & Laundry worker at Houghton Rehabilitation & Nursing Center. “Now we have a wage scale for number of years worked. We are finally being recognized and that really means something,” said Lariviere.
Healthcare workers fought hard for wage increases after years fighting the pandemic in their rural towns. Highlights of the new 2-year contract include increased wages based on years of experience and longevity pay to retain long-time caregivers with more than 10 years of service.
Caregivers won competitive start rates and wage scales with experience, resulting in historic wage increases for workers. Workers also won quality pension increases, pick up bonuses to fill shifts, shift differential and mentor pay. Union healthcare workers will also receive Juneteenth as a paid holiday.
“With this new contract, I will be able to spend more time at home with my family,” said Debbie Capitano, Certified Nurse Assistant at Eden Rehabilitation and Nursing Center. “These wage increases mean I don’t have to pick up so many extra shifts to make ends meet,” said Capitano.
Health insurance problems were a key sticking point at contract negotiations. The employer agreed to pay more towards health insurance benefits for workers. The union and employer will work together to expand the network of providers who accept the insurance to avoid exorbitant out of pocket costs to workers. In addition, healthcare workers will now have access to dental and optical benefits partially covered by the employer.
The union and the employer also agreed to expand bereavement leave to include domestic partner, step-parent or step-child.
Nursing home workers at the four facilities work as Licensed Practical Nurses, Certified Nurse Assistants, Rehab Aides, Unit helpers, Housekeeping Aides, Laundry Aides, Dietary Cooks, Dietary Aides, Dietary Assistants and Certified Nurse Assistants in Training. The new agreement runs through April 30, 2025.
The four nursing homes located in Salamanca, Eden, Houghton and Dunkirk have been managed by one for-profit company, Personal Healthcare Management, LLC since 2018. Incoming owners of the four for-profit rural nursing home facilities are listed as Esther Barth, Batia Zagelbaum and Chaya Walden, relatives of Ephraim Zagelbaum, Alexander Barth and Yehudah Walden. 
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. www.1199seiu.org