Nursing home workers in Connecticut are planning to strike if they don’t see increased funding for more staff and better benefits in the next two weeks.
Members and leaders of the New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199 SEIU, met Monday in Hartford to announce that more than 2,500 nursing home caregivers across the state are prepared to strike on May 1 if progress isn’t made.
“It is our state tax dollars—all of us as Connecticut residents—that actually pay for the services that are done in nursing homes,” said union president Rob Baril. “Our (state) budgets are moral documents, and so we are asking for appropriations that allow us to settle contracts that move workers ahead.”
SEIU 1199 is one of the state’s largest health care workers’ unions—it represents more than 19,000 nurses, certified nursing assistants, technicians, service workers, clerical employees and others across hospitals, nursing homes, state agencies and other health care settings.
Strike notices went out Saturday to 20 skilled nursing facilities in Connecticut. Unionized workers like Careene Reid said her pay as a certified nursing assistant falls short of what is needed to afford the daily costs of living in Connecticut.
“We only get 27 cents (raise) from 2015,” she said. “The mortgage—raised. You go to the supermarket—everything’s sky high. I can’t go on a vacation with my family, it’s so hard.”
Baril said many nursing homes have 70 percent or more of patients and residents on Medicaid. It means facilities rely on Medicaid reimbursement rates, which are set by the state government using state money. Advocates said they hope to see that funding increase in the next bi-annual budget.
And Matthew V. Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities and the Connecticut Center for Assisted Living, said that’s the only way to get more money as most nursing home operators and owners are not able to privately pay for the increases.
“It’s not at all unreasonable for nursing home operators to be very reluctant to enter into multi-year contracts that provide wage increases and benefit increases year after year when there’s no funding, no Medicaid funding in the system, to pay for those increased costs,” he said.
Although workers are prepared to go on strike, Jesse Martin said the move is a last resort. Martin, vice president of nursing homes for the union, said everyone is still hoping for a resolution before it gets to that point.