1199 SEIU caregivers were on the picket line in front of Crystal Lake Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Bayville on Friday to demand a fair contract for the nursing home’s caregivers.

An estimated 100 Crystal Lake employees came out to show their support at a demonstration that was loud and lively. Drivers and passersby honked their horns and hollered in support of the demonstrators who flanked the road before beginning their march toward the nursing home’s principal driveway.

“Any cutbacks for housekeeping, nursing, or dietary workers are ultimately going to hurt the residents. This fight is not just about our families, but for these residents that are here. And that’s my main concern,” said Marvin Davis who has worked at Crystal Lake in the housekeeping department for over four years. “Everybody needs help here, and we all got to stick together. It’s like a family here, and [management] is trying to break apart a family.”

Workers at Crystal Lake are currently in negotiations with the nursing home’s owner for a new contract. No agreement has been reached between union representatives and management, which recently proposed an immediate wage freeze for the next year, as well as reductions to workers’ paid time off. Management has also proposed reductions in starting rates for new workers, and has refused to increase contributions to the employee health insurance fund needed in order for workers to maintain their existing healthcare benefits.

Crystal Lake’s owner, Ocean Healthcare Operating Partners, recently bid $15 million to acquire a Burlington County-operated facility, Buttonwood Hospital. The sale was approved by freeholders Wednesday night, but faces fierce opposition from community members who are fighting hard to prevent the acquisition from moving forward.

“We keep hearing that employers cannot afford to maintain workers’ health benefits or offer caregivers the raises they need to earn a decent living,” said Milly Silva 1199 SEIU Executive Vice President in New Jersey. “We know this is not true. We can see it in the growth of the industry in New Jersey. We are simply saying that at the same time these facilities invest literally millions in new brick and mortar projects, they should be investing something in human capital and doing right by their employees, too.”