WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Labor day weekend celebrates the American labor movement and contributions of its laborers, but a particular group of workers claim they’re not getting the treatment they deserve.
Those workers are from 14 different nursing homes statewide, including the Gardens at Wyoming Valley. They just ended their picketing for the day. They gave a strike notice to management ten days ago. That notice was up today, and now those workers are off the job.
You’d normally find certified nursing assistant Raheem Armitage working inside the Gardens at Wyoming Valley. Instead, he’s outside working the crowd of fellow employees who are now on strike.
“We’re very frustrated, sad, angry. We want the best for our patients here, our residents here. They’re the ones that matter the most. But we also matter, too,” says Armitage.
Some 40 workers here are among the roughly 700 nursing home employees on strike statewide. The jobs range from licensed practical nurses and nursing assistants to dietary, housekeeping, activities and maintenance.
“You have dietary workers who, who are burned out. They’re done. They show up every day for that resident because they depend on us,” says Rachel Herczeg, an orginizer from SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania.
Contract talks broke off early Friday morning with two nursing home ownership groups. One of them, Priority Healthcare, owns five facilities combined in Luzerne, Monroe and Schuylkill counties. The union SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania says the labor unrest is steeped in staffing and care.
“When people are out on the streets, something’s wrong inside,” says Herczeg.
Lisa Brand met with picketers who normally take care of her 97-year-old mother.
“I do know most of them. My mother has been here for five years now,” says Brand.
Brand visited with her mom, and spoke with administration staff.
“They said that everything’s going to be fine. No problems, so… And I did check,” says Brand.
Public support means something to these picketers.
“It makes me happy. It makes me smile as you can see. It shows that we matter,” says Armitage.
A contract settlement would mean even more.
When asked if she hopes the strike ends soon, Brand replied, “I do. I do for everybody’s sake.”
A union representative says the picketing will continue daily through at least Labor Day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. unless a contract settlement is reached.
Eyewitness news left a message for management to get their side of the story, but did not get a response.