June 9, 2020

Do you remember “Naked and Afraid?” It was that survival TV show on the Discovery Channel that dropped contestants in the middle of the wilderness, naked, to fend for themselves. “Naked and Afraid” is also how Wanda Wilson, CNA at Ellicott Center, described how the employees feel caring for COVID positive residents without proper PPE. But, unlike the TV show, there is no cash prize at the end of the road. When Wanda and her co-workers emerge on the other side of this, there is no fanfare, there is no grand prize, and there are no adoring fans.

Buffalo Center was one of the first nursing homes in the area hit by the virus, but Ellicott Center was not too far behind. Despite the high number of COVID-19 cases in both facilities, the wealthy owners outright refuse to pay hazard pay, even though workers are putting their lives in jeopardy to care for their residents. Without proper PPE, workers aren’t protected, and they, their families, and their coworkers get sick. Members are risking their lives on the frontline without question every single day. They deserve to be compensated for that risk.

That’s why, on May 14, 2020, 1199 workers marked up their cars with messages like “Centers’ Workers Deserve Hazard Pay” and “Nursing Home Workers are Essential” to participate in a Car Caravan. Approximately 25 cars drove first to Buffalo Center then to Ellicott Center to support our workers and our fight for hazard pay and PPE. The press was waiting at the facilities, managing to catch the cars’ honking, signs, and showing support and solidarity. That night, you couldn’t watch the news without seeing our long line of cars, Wanda Wilson’s interview, or CNA Ishma Marshall’s face.

Our fight isn’t over yet. It was the beginning of a long sequence of actions. We’re planning to put pressure on the employer to compensate workers for the risk they are taking. But even our first public action, a simple drive-by, was enough to impact the employer and improve PPE supply. It is without question that we have great strength when we stand together. And when we use our strength, we win.