NJ Workers’ Tenacity Averts a Three-Home Strike

August 16, 2017

In the wee hours of June 23, some 270 members at three New Jersey nursing homes settled a hard-won contract settlement and averted a one-day strike planned for the same day. Workers at Amboy Care and Rehabilitation Center in Perth Amboy, ManhattanView Nursing Home in Union City, and Teaneck Nursing Center in Teaneck—a trio of facilities owned by Broadway Healthcare Management—were weary after three years of management refusing to settle a contract and their constant pushback on even the most basic proposals.

Members finally had enough and decided to push the envelope with a one-day strike, says Cerese Abraham, a CNA at Teaneck.

“[They] came to the table and finally signed the contract at the last minute,” says Abraham. “This has been a long struggle. Everything was going up but our paychecks.”

Nicolas Torres, a dietary worker at Amboy Care in Perth Amboy, says workers were fed up with constantly being asked to do more with less.

“They wanted us to be on top of everything—taking care of patients, feeding everyone and cleaning everyone—but they didn’t want to pay us,” says Torres. “I’ve been there four years and had one raise. With the amount of money I make, I can barely get by. I can’t do anything.”

Throughout the fight workers held pickets and vigils. Several elected officials spoke out in their support, including NJ Senate Majority leader Loretta Weinberg.

In a statement, Weinberg reminded Broadway’s owners of their significant funding from taxpayer dollars and their “obligation to use those resources with the utmost responsibility.” All three homes were cited by the National Labor Relations Board for their failure to bargain in good faith and make the necessary contributions to workers’ healthcare and education funds.

At an April informational picket Geraldine Ballentine, a Teaneck Nursing Center CNA for over 30 years, decried the way poor working conditions exacerbate already desperate short staffing.

“We used to have six CNAs on the overnight shift. Now we only have four,” she said. “That means I’m responsible for caring for 26 residents on my floor. I want to be able to give special care and attention to each one, but it is so difficult with our current staffing levels.”

Bargaining committee member Yesenia LaFleche, an LPN at ManhattanView Nursing Home in Union City, said the new contract, with its wage increases and protections for pensions and benefits, will help provide security for worker and patients.

“Good jobs mean less turnover, healthier staff and ultimately better care for our residents,” said LaFleche.

The pact was overwhelmingly ratified in votes at the three homes on June 23.