New Jersey Nursing Home Workers Make Their Voices Heard for Quality Care, Good Jobs

July 28, 2011

“Everything is tight. We’re all robbing Peter to pay Paul, you know, taking a little from here to pay there. That’s the reason we need fair contracts with better wages,” said Tara Bowers, a dietary aide at Alameda Nursing Home in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

Bowers is one of four thousand 1199SEIU members in New Jersey whose contract expiration date is coming up before summers’ end. The workers, at 38 nursing homes across the entire state spanning from the northernmost border to southern New Jersey, have come together in a campaign called, “Voices For Quality Care and Good Jobs-The Heart of New Jersey”

Paulette Johnson, a certified nursing assistant at Regency Heritage Nursing Home in Somerset, is on the 1199SEIU negotiating committee for her facility. “Coming together gives us more strength,” she said. “It doesn’t matter where you work, we all have the same needs. As the caregivers, our nursing homes couldn’t operate without us. That’s why we are the ‘Heart of New Jersey’.”

She explained, “We all take pride in our work and want to give the best possible quality care. When you have to worry about whether your next check is going to pay the bills, it takes away from giving total attention to the residents, who require and deserve a hundred percent. So, we need decent wages and affordable health benefits, to take care of our families at the same time we care for the residents.”

In addition to fair wages and affordable health insurance, members statewide are negotiating a guaranteed pension that will allow workers to retire with dignity as well as training and education benefits to learn new job skills or pursue academic opportunities.

On August 4-5, members at four nursing homes will launch the “Voices for Quality Care and Good Jobs” campaign by holding two “Days of Action”. They will be joined by their families and some of their residents’ families, 1199SEIU members across the state, health care and community advocates and elected officials.

Certified nursing assistant Diane Brisco works at Medicenter/Jersey Shore Nursing Home in Neptune City, one of the rally sites. “Health benefits are a very important issue for us,” she said. If we can’t go to the doctor and stay healthy, how can we take good care of our residents, who are in poor health? Every nursing home worker at every facility needs good health benefits.”

The Days of Action will take place from 1:30-4:30 pm at the following New Jersey nursing homes.

August 4 in Newark

Forrest Hill Nursing Home

497 Mount Prospect Avenue

August 4 in Barnegat

Barnegat Nursing Center

859 West Bay Avenue

August 5 in Perth Amboy

AristaCare at Alameda Center

303 Elm Street

August 5 in Neptune City


2050 6th Avenue

For more information, call the 1199SEIU office at 732.287.8113. You can also send a text message from your cell phone by typing the word “CONTRACT” and send to 30644.