Williamsville Nursing Home Workers Unanimously Vote To Authorize One-Day Strike As Union Requests Federal Mediator Join TalksMay 10, 2023
Some owners of Comprehensive at Williamsville under investigation by NYS Attorney General for alleged misuse of $18 Million in Medicaid funding for personal profit, while residents were neglected and suffered due to chronic understaffing
Buffalo, NY – Approximately 34 workers, which includes all Licensed Practical Nurses, Certified Nurse Assistants, Housekeeping Aides, Laundry Aides, Dietary Cooks, and Dietary Aides, at the 142-bed facility unanimously voted to authorize a one-day strike. Caregivers have been working without a union contract since December 31, 2022 when their 3-year contract expired. Caregivers held an informational picket in March when contract negotiations began to stall with the embattled out-of-town ownership group. Nursing home workers are represented by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest healthcare workers union in the country.
Nursing home workers who voted on the strike last month say they are willing to do what it takes to win a fair contract. “I came in on my day off because I am ready to walk,” said Raymond Scott, Housekeeper.
Caregivers are asking their employer to provide better working conditions and to offer competitive wages and a pension to help retain and recruit more workers at the facility in Williamsville. Chronic short staffing and the employer’s offer of minimum wage rates are key issues in contract talks. Approximately 45% of the workers at the facility are earning less than $15 per hour.
Comprehensive at Williamsville is a one-star facility which in recent years has seen high staff turnover rates – notably higher than the national average according to US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
“Short staffing effects the quality of care, said Ivan Tidwell, Licensed Practical Nurse. “We don’t have enough staff to cover the shifts and the residents might suffer because their care is delayed. We need more in-house workers to help to take care of our residents and to do that we need a fair contract,” said Tidwell.
Recruiting and retaining long-term employees is key to continuity of care for residents.“I’ve been here 27 years and we need to make a change,” said Sally Beiter, Dietary Aide. I have to think about retirement and can’t do that without a pension and better wages,” said Beiter.
Nursing home workers are seeking community support and have launched a public campaign to draw attention to their working conditions and lack of fair contract. Caregivers are asking the community, resident families, and elected officials to contact the employer asking them to negotiate a fair contract with better working conditions and competitive wages.
Comprehensive Nursing & Rehabilitation at Williamsville owners have ties to Villages of Orleans and are named in the NYS Attorney General’s lawsuit against the Villages at Orleans. According to NYS Department of Health, the owners of Comprehensive at Williamsville are Ephram Lahasky, David Gast, Joshua Farkovits, Samuel Halper, Debbie Korngut, Teresa Lichtstein, and Jeffrey Arem. All owners are named in the lawsuit except Jeffrey Arem.
Caregivers at the bargaining table are also fighting to keep language in the contract that protects their union and hard-earned benefits. During contract negotiations last week, management proposed eliminating the successorship clause which is common language in contracts and protects workers’ wages and benefits from being weakened or eliminated should a facility change ownership.
1199SEIU issued a 10-day notice to the ownership group in preparation for a one-day (24-hour strike) strike to be held starting on Wednesday, May 17th. The union has also requested a Federal Mediator join negotiations in hopes of reaching a fair settlement.
Some of the undisclosed owners of Comprehensive at Williamsville are also cited as defendants in the New York State Attorney General’s lawsuit against Villages of Orleansincluding Ephraim Lahasky, David Gast, Samuel Halper, Joshua Farkovitis, Teresa Lichtschein, and her daughter in law Debbie Korgnut.
The New York State Attorney General’s lawsuit against Villages of Orleans owners years of financial fraud which resulted in resident neglect and harm. Part of the lawsuit alleges that the owners misused more than $18 million in Medicaid funding to increase personal profits through related party transactions. The lawsuit alleges that owners too advantage of the state’s Medicaid funding to increase their personal profits instead of using funds to properly staff the facility and to invest in resident care.
“Under New York law, owners of nursing homes have a special obligation to provide a high level of care and quality of life for residents,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “The Villages’ owners failed in their duty to residents by engaging in a scheme to divert funds away from the facility to increase their personal profit, drastically cutting staff at the facility to do so,” said James.
The lawsuit alleges that a history of insufficient staffing and low quality of care is traceable to the owner’s financial scheme to divert funding for residents to their personal profits.
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.