Williamsville Nursing Home Workers Unanimously Vote To Ratify Multi-Year Agreement Following Several Job Actions Including One-Day StrikeJuly 10, 2023
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, July 10, 2023
Contact: April.Ezzell@1199.org, 1199SEIU Communications (716) 449-1620
Buffalo, NY - Approximately 34 workers at Comprehensive Rehabilitation & Nursing Center at Williamsville, 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 ratify a multi- year agreement with their employer after months of negotiations and several job actions including a one-day strike.
Caregivers had been working without a contract since December 31, 2022 when their 3-year contract expired. According to the federal government, the facility ranks “much below average” for its staffing levels, with workers citing low pay and high turnover as issues needing urgent attention. Nursing home workers participated in multiple job actions including a one-day strike and circulated a community petition to call for increased staffing levels, improved jobs, and safer working conditions to protect quality care for residents. Caregivers are represented by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.
In advance of their one-day strike in May, 1199SEIU requested a Federal Mediator join talks to avoid a long-term indefinite strike which union members authorized. Both the union and the employer were able to reach a settlement late last week, which then progressed to a vote of the entire membership. Union members at the aging facility in Williamsville overwhelmingly voted to approve the new multi-year contract late Friday.
"I'm pretty excited,” said Eric Ray, Cook. “This is a long time coming. We work hard for these residents. It's about time management recognized that and compensates us fairly for it,” said Ray.
Workers expressed concerns about their future if the facility should change ownership. Union nursing home workers won the right to keep their successorship clause, maintaining their hard-earned wages and benefits should the facility change ownership in the future. A successorship clause is common language in labor contracts and it protects workers’ wages and benefits from being weakened or eliminated should a facility change ownership.
"I've been here 21 years and when Comprehensive took over, it's unbelievable what a change it was,” said Carol Sole, Receptionist. “I didn’t think improvements were possible, but you know what, with this new contract, I'm staying,” said Sole.
Union nursing home workers also fought back against concessionary proposals made by the for- profit ownership group and won. Wage rates for caregivers are now in line with the area standard established bringing service workers well above the area minimum wage. To recruit and retain workers, there will no longer be tiers between employees hired before and after 2015 when the current owners purchased the facility. In addition, caregivers who provide training to new hires will get preceptor pay and caregivers have won guaranteed time for ongoing education.
All union workers will get retroactive pay back to January 1st in addition to general wage increase of at least 13% in the first year, with as much as up to 30% for long time dedicated caregivers. In year two of the contract, workers will get a general wage increase of 4.25%.
Union nursing home workers will also get a 10-step wage scale for all job titles based on years of service and longevity increases for years of dedicated service as well as an annual bonus in lieu of pension increases. The yearly bonuses will be in effect until such time as the employer agrees to implement a pension plan. Nursing home workers will also see an increase to shift differential, improvements to employer provided family health insurance and an added paid Juneteenth holiday.
The new multi-year contract includes health and safety language to address and improve working conditions at the facility. The employer must negotiate any changes to job descriptions and management must tell workers they have a right to a union representative if being disciplined. Workers won expansion of their bereavement pay, making it easier to utilize. In addition, the employer must provide consistent schedules for workers to follow and will now pay workers on a weekly basis.
The new labor agreement is effective through April 30, 2025, regardless of ownership.
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.