NJ Caregivers Take Action to Defend Benefits They Need to Stay Healthy

September 30, 2016

When management at two New Jersey nursing homes proposed to cut back on sick time and other benefits for caregivers, 1199SEIU members and nursing homes residents sprung into action to defend good jobs by picketing at their facilities on September 28 and 29.

“We’re here to protect our health insurance and our sick days so we can stay healthy while we work,” explained Marc Hawkins, a cook who picketed with his co-workers at Cranford Health & Extended Care in Cranford, NJ. “If I didn’t have these benefits I would have to work a second job just to cover the cost of my healthcare.”

Marie Meronvil, a CNA at Raritan at River’s Edge in Raritan, NJ, said that winning wage increases and a path to a $15 minimum wage is also a crucially important issue. So far, the company hasn’t offered any wage increases for their next contract. “I only take home $600 every two weeks even though I work full time,” Marie says. “My eldest daughter just started college and it’s really difficult for my husband and I to help pay for her education while juggling the costs of rent, food, and car insurance for our family.”

Members were joined on the picket line by nursing home residents who came out to show their solidarity. “Nursing homes need to attract and keep good workers, so they need to have good jobs,” said Victor Days, a resident of Cranford nursing home. “The staff here are good, quality workers. They care for us, and they need to be cared for, too.”

Victor’s concern for his caregivers was echoed by Brenda Newborn, a fellow nursing home resident. “They have to eat, pay for utilities, and feed their kids. Give them what they want!”, she said.

Cristina Martinho, a housekeeper and member of the Union bargaining committee, explained that members’ readiness to take action to defend their jobs is key to winning a strong contract. “Management is trying to save money and see what they can get away with. They are testing our strength and how united we are, so we must stay strong.”