Nursing home workers vote to strike, send message to both employers and lawmakers

Workers at 27 nursing homes have voted to go on strike April 24, a move aimed at both their employers and state lawmakers wrangling over a state budget that has significant implications for nursing homes.

The 27 nursing homes are owned by three chains: Paradigm Healthcare, Genesis HealthCare and iCare, and employ more than 3,500 workers represented by the union SEIU 1199, New England. Contracts at the nursing homes expired last month.

Union spokeswoman Jennifer Schneider said workers – many of whom earn less than $15 per hour – feel like their voices haven’t been heard by either state lawmakers or their employers, despite participating in negotiations and testifying at state budget hearings about how difficult it is to make ends meet.

Nursing homes rely heavily on state funding. About 70 percent of their patients are covered by Medicaid. Their state funding has largely been flat in recent years, despite rising costs.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed budget calls for canceling a scheduled cost-of-living increase in Medicaid payments to nursing homes – a cut that happens nearly every year. Nursing homes would be exempt from a separate proposal by Malloy to cut Medicaid rates to many providers, although it’s not clear if they would remain exempt from any cuts imposed in a final budget negotiated between legislators and the governor.

“Even if we were flat-funded, it would be impossible to address the collective bargaining issues, but it would be so much worse if we were to be cut,” said Matthew Barrett, executive vice president of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, a nursing home trade group that represents the three chains. “It would just seem insurmountable.”

Barrett’s association, which represents 160 nursing homes, issued a statement urging employees to continue negotiating and stay on the job. In the statement, Barrett said a large-scale job action could put residents at risk and would bring significant costs, since nursing homes would have to pay replacement workers as well as their transportation and lodging costs, and fund increased security.

Nursing homes are working on strike contingency plans, he said, and preparing to bring in replacement workers.

“It’s simply not possible to address the employee wage and benefit issues when there are no Medicaid resources,” Barrett said.

Negotiations are still going on with the three chains affected by the strike vote and the 27 other nursing homes that have also had contracts expire recently.

Schneider said the strike votes reflected workers’ exhaustion and feelings that the difficulties they face making ends meet on low wages have not been heard.

“No health care worker who spends all their day caring for people ever wants to go on strike,” she said.

On average, the nursing home workers 1199 represents are 44 years old and have 10 years of experience, according to the union. Excluding nurses, more than half of the nursing home workers earn less than $15 per hour.

The affected nursing homes are:

Nursing homes affected by strike vote
Workers at these nursing homes voted to go on strike April 24
Nursing home Location
Arden House Hamden
Governors House Simsbury
Harrington Court Colchester
Kimberly Hall North Windsor
Kimberly Hall South Windsor
Madison House Care & Rehab Center Madison
Meriden Center Meriden
Saint Joseph’s Manor Trumbull
Salmon Brook Glastonbury
St. Camillus Stamford
Touchpoints at Manchester Manchester
Chelsea Place Hartford
Touchpoints at Chestnut East Windsor
Touchpoints at Farmington Farmington
Fresh River Healthcare East Windsor
Silver Springs Care Center Meriden
Trinity Hill Hartford
Westside Care Center Manchester
Touchpoints at Bloomfield Bloomfield
Davis Place Danielson
Three Rivers Norwich
Paradigm Healthcare Center of New Haven New Haven
Paradigm Healthcare Center of Prospect Prospect
Paradigm Healthcare Center of Torrington Torrington
Paradigm Healthcare Center of Waterbury Waterbury
Paradigm Healthcare Center of West Haven West Haven
Paradigm Healthcare Center of South Windsor South Windsor
SEIU 1199, New England

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