Frigid temperatures didn’t stop some eighty nursing home workers at New Vista Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Newark, NJ, from holding an energetic picket at their facility on February 16. 1199SEIU members called for the picket after 7 months of contract negotiations during which the company failed to adequately address urgent concerns including the lack of decent health benefits for workers and their families.

During the picket, certified nursing assistant (CNA) Carol Telemaque said that “better health care is one of our top priorities. For the past 6 months I’ve needed surgery but haven’t been able to get it because of issues with the insurance. It’s made it very difficult for me to work.” CNA Kareem Burton echoed the concern about health care: “I would like to provide insurance for my 7 month old daughter, but can’t afford the $100 every paycheck. Instead I have to rely on Medicaid so she can go to the doctor.”

Maggie Baptiste, who has worked the facility for the past 23 years, stressed how important it is for management to recognize the hard work and effort they put into caring for residents. “We love our residents—they become like our own mothers and fathers. We always go the extra mile for them—bringing from home extra clothes, perfume, lotions, and other things that will make them feel special and loved.”

As the campaign at New Vista heats up, members are preparing for more actions to educate the surrounding community about the need to improve jobs—so that caregivers have the stability in their own lives to provide the best care possible to residents.