Patient Care Is the Bottom Line for Florida Caregivers

January 1, 1970

This month, nearly one thousand Consulate Health Care nursing home workers signed a letter to residents’ family members in 17 facilities across Florida highlighting how their employer is prioritizing profits over patient care.

Their letter highlighted concerns about staffing levels, decreased time spent with residents, and the low wages invested in those who provide care. Because Consulate Health Care refuses to adequately address these concerns after months of negotiations, 1199SEIU Florida members are turning to residents and their family members to sound the alarm about the crisis in Florida’s nursing homes.

Caregivers distributed their letter to family members of residents on October 12 as some 500 workers and supporters picketed in eight cities across Florida for improved standards of care in the Consulate nursing homes.

“We stood outside our nursing homes in the middle of the day at the height of visiting time to reach family members of residents and educate them about the low wages we are paid and the low staffing ,” explained Gladys Charles, a certified nursing assistant at Bay Breeze Health and Rehabilitation Center (formerly Heritage Health Care) in Venice.

“We want to give them the tools and information they need to ensure that staffing levels are safe, that showers are regularly given, and which agencies to call when they need help or to report a problem.”

On October 14, Consulate caregivers voted by a 97 percent majority to authorize strikes if the company refuses to address caregivers’ concerns. On October 17, Consulate caregivers rallied outside of their employer’s headquarters in Maitland and served notice to the company not to extend their union contracts, making strikes possible at 15 Consulate nursing homes represented by 1199SEIU Florida.

Consulate caregivers shared stories of struggling to make ends meet, smaller checks, cooks who are givern fewer hours to prepare resident meals, and even reports of some caregivers fighting cancer without healthcare insurance of their own. Examples abound of the conditions Consulate creates when they do not provide enough staff to care for residents.

“I came to headquarters today to let the corporation know that all we want is a good agreement,” said Nancy Diaz, a certified nursing assistant at Consulate at Kissimmee. “We want improved staffing standards, guaranteed staffing hours that we need for proper care, and wages that make it possible for us to continue our work and take care of our families. We want respect and dignity for all employees and residents!”

Headquartered in Maitland, Florida, Consulate Health Care’s profits skyrocketed by 770 percent between 2009 and 2010. The company is offering a mere 1.5 percent wage increase to frontline caregivers, while Consulate’s top executives received pay increases of at least 109 percent in 2011, over the previous year. Consulate was also the top ranking business on the Orlando Business Journal’s Golden 100 due to its $1.7 billion in revenue.