Fighting for Hazard Pay

June 9, 2020

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“I have to suit up in my hazmat gear every day to fix toilets, lights and make sure telephones work so residents can talk to loved ones,” said John Hill, who has worked in maintenance at Buffalo Center since 1995. “The right thing to do would be to give us some kind of recognition for the risks we are taking for our residents.”

But the Centers, one of the largest nursing home operators in New York, refused.

“They told us just do your job, that’s what you signed up for,” said Annette Rogers, who has worked at Buffalo Center as a Unit Clerk for twenty years.

When the COVID-19 Virus started hitting nursing homes in Western New York in March, 1199 pushed for regular labor management meetings during the crisis at each facility. The goal was to involve our delegates in important discussions with the Employer about resident care and infection control, PPEs, proper inservices and training, staffing and, of course, hazard pay.

Many of our Employers agreed right away to the labor management meetings and paying 1199 members more for working on COVID-19 units. The standard was $5.00 an hour premium pay for those providing care to residents who were positive. But the amounts varied, depending on the Employer and the circumstances.

Of course, some nursing home operators refused to cooperate with 1199 at all. These facilities would have infrequent labor management meetings, if any, and were absolutely unwilling to agree to hazard pay for caregivers on the front lines.

1199ers working for difficult employers did not take this lying down. Hazard pay petitions were circulated at many of these facilities and hundreds of members signed them. Silent vigils were held in support of hazard pay in front of some of the nursing homes. A car caravan in early May circled Buffalo Center and Ellicott Center protesting the Centers' owner's refusal to offer workers any additional pay during the COVID crisis. There have been marches on the boss for hazard pay at a number of nursing homes throughout the last two months.

The Union has also been pushing for those nursing homes paying hazard pay to expand those payments to all employees because everyone showing up to work is doing their part and risking their health. But only a few have agreed.

We still have work to do to make sure everyone who has stepped up, gone to work and cared for their residents is shown the respect and appreciation that each one deserves. This means hazard pay for all! The fight continues.