While Insecurity About Affordable Healthcare Looms on the Federal Level, 1199SEIU Nursing Home Workers in Albany Ratify Multi-Year Contract With Guaranteed Health Benefits and Annual RaisesApril 13, 2017
Albany, NY: More than 160 caregivers at Hudson Park Nursing Home, members of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the powerful healthcare workers union, unanimously ratified a collective bargaining agreement last night, after a year of negotiations, meetings, candlelight vigils, and informational picketing.
The nursing home is owned and operated by Upstate Services Group (USG), who acquired the former Julie Blair Nursing Home in 2011. Despite the fact USG, LLC is known for taking over nursing homes in upstate New York and cutting staff and benefits, the union members negotiated an agreement they say will improve quality of life for workers, residents and all their families.
1199SEIU Executive Vice President Gregory Speller said, “These hardworking union caregivers who live and work in the community the nursing home serves, persevered despite the fact their fight was with an out-of-town corporate employer. They stood up for themselves, their residents and their community and with that attitude were able to secure a legally-binding contract with annual raises and good benefits, as well as the 1199SEIU Greater New York Education Fund, which can open doors to all kinds of training and upgrading opportunities.”
“A union contract is more important than ever. Working people are seeking security and peace of mind as drastic actions are being considered and taken by a new Congress and administration in Washington. Since January, 1199 members at Whitney Young Health Center in Albany, Adirondack Tri-County Nursing Home in North Creek and at EmblemHealth in Guilderland, all ratified contracts with wage increases, affordable, comprehensive health benefits and workplace protections.”
While policymakers in Washington wrangle with the complex matters of health insurance and healthcare delivery in the U.S., the issue of affordable health benefits also played out as a point of contention throughout the 1199SEIU/Hudson Park negotiations.
Radcliffe McPherson, an 1199SEIU Negotiating Committee member and dietary worker at the facility for more than 20 years, breathed a sigh of relief. “We are healthcare workers who provide services and care to people who are ill – we have to be healthy when we come to work. All it takes is one illness to bankrupt your family, so you need insurance. And now, who knows what will happen in Washington. I paid for the employer’s insurance, even though the premiums were so high it meant that I barely had anything left in my paycheck to pay my bills.”
“Under the new contract,” McPherson said, “almost immediately my weekly premium will be reduced from $47 to $23. That’s $96 more a month that I will have.”
Hudson Park/USG has been paying only 60% of employee health insurance premiums, leaving the rest to the workers. Under the new contract, the employer will pay 80% of those costs through 2018. In 2019, the employer will pay 85% of the premiums.
During negotiations, members of the 1199 Negotiating Committee continuously stated that high staff turnover at Hudson Park is in no small part related to workers leaving for another position as soon as a job with affordable health benefits is available elsewhere.
1199SEIU Negotiating Committee member and C.N.A. Sharmaine Allen said, “Who suffers when there is frequent staff turnover? Our residents who depend on quality continuity of care. This contract takes a big step in the right direction toward being able to maintain staff.”
In addition to significant improvements in health benefits, the workers will receive a 5% raise during 2017, a 2% increase in 2018 and a 2.5% increase in 2019. Additional provisions include improvements in personal time and other time off. The contract duration is April 5, 2016 to and including April 4, 2020. The bargaining unit includes certified nursing assistants, recreation aides, dietary, laundry and environmental services workers.
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.