EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — Nursing home workers were back at work Monday morning after a week-long strike for what they say.
After months of negotiations and the longest nursing home strike in SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania’s history, workers at comprehensive, priority, and Shenandoah Heights Healthcare, LLC-owned nursing have reached new contracts.
“They’ve been through so much. The fact they had to step outside in itself is an outrage, but they did that with love and fearlessness and tenacity. I think folks are going back to work proud for standing up for themselves and the residents,” said Matt Yarnell, president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania.
Each has a different contract, but all three include higher pay, adjustments to health insurance, and a commitment to adhere to new state staffing regulations.
“We set wage standards, beginning to stabilize the industry through wage scales, we were able to recognize people’s service through longevity increases. Some of these people have given their whole lives to this industry. We were able to secure that our staffing will be followed and we were able to make improvements to healthcare,” said Yarnell.
About 700 workers were part of unfair labor practice strikes that began labor day weekend. Yarnell says they sent a strong message, and it was heard.
“For these 3 companies in particular that were on strike, we also won successorship protections, which essentially says if any of these buildings is sold to another operator, that operator has to for a time-limited period has to assume the contracts and the workers, which is really important because of all of the instability in the industry and all of the ownership change, we’ve watched all of the standards that workers win get eroded every time they get sold,” said Yarnell.
As for the future, Yarnell says the fight has only just begun.
“We’re not done. We’ve got to continue to drive for quality care and quality outcomes in this industry and that workers have a seat at the table and can help shape the future at these skilled nursing facilities, we’ve got to get to retirement for these workers, we’ve got to get to safer staffing,” said Yarnell.
Of the 14 nursing homes impacted by the strike, five are in northeast Pennsylvania.