Nursing home workers from across the state visited their legislators to urge them to approve Medicaid expansion to provide quality, affordable healthcare for all nursing home and long-term care workers. Many nursing home workers struggle to afford quality, affordable health coverage. The Legislature should adopt Medicaid Expansion to provide coverage to long-term care workers and our families. The program will include an influx of federal dollars that will result in the state saving $225 million in the current biennium. Plus, the program will create 10,000 new jobs in our state.
Theresa Sutherland, CNA at Extendicare Aldercrest shares her story of how SEIU Healthcare 775NW made a difference in her life. “The union defended me against unfair and untrue allegations and allowed me to return to work with back pay. This is why we need to stand together, to have protections and build power.”
Serah Thuo, a CNA at Evergreen Talbot, is pictured in the center talking to her state legislator during lobby day in Olympia. “In February, I joined hundreds of union caregivers at the state capital, where we successfully stopped proposed cuts to nursing home funding that would have made staffing worse across the state. If caregivers keep uniting together, then I’d like to see us push for a state law with staffing ratios for caregivers-to-residents like SEIU members already did in Oregon.”
Serah talks about her concerns of staff safety, and why it is important to fight as part of a union in all nursing homes. “My biggest concern is safe-staffing, which just about all nursing homes struggle with. Last year our company got rid of some of our shower aides and reassigned their work to NACs. We saw this hurt staffing, so we documented every time one of us had staffing problems. Then we presented management with a report at a labor-management committee, and they agreed to bring back the shower aide for a high-acuity unit.”
Ashok Raju, a cook at Evergreen Talbot says that teaming up during bargaining. “When we recently negiotiated our contract, we teamed up with staff from five other homes owned by our company. By uniting across the company, we got our employer to agree to pay a higher share of our health care premiums, and another home negotiating with us won 100-percent employer-paid premiums after one year of service.” He said, “We each start where we are at and stick together to make as many improvements as we can.”
On February 17, workers at the Missoula Health and Rehabilitation Center voted by a margin of 63% to unionize. They registered via card check to become represented members of SEIU Healthcare 775NW.
“We are thrilled to be represented by SEIU Healthcare 775NW and look forward to negotiating our first union contract,” said Frannie Roberts, CNA and member of the Organizing Committee. She added, “My co-workers and I think having a union will give us a stronger voice at work.”
Missoula Health and Rehab Center is a 53 bed facility that provides a continuum of care that includes professional nursing care, rehabilitative therapy and other support services to residents enabling them to maintain their independence. The facility is designed to meet both short and long-term care needs.
There are approximately 30 bargaining unit members.
The largest group of unionized nursing home workers ever to lobby the Washington legislature descended on Olympia Feb. 9, demanding an end to long-term care cuts and increased funding for nursing homes.
Then on Friday, we were told that legislators are likely to vote—this weekend—on health insurance exchange legislation that is designed to give all long-term care workers more control, quality choices and better protections when buying insurance.
At the capitol, SEIU Healthcare 775NW members from across the state let legislators know that cuts to both state and federal funding for their programs have left thousands of nursing home workers living in poverty and left our vulnerable seniors with inadequate care and insufficient staffing.
“We didn’t just tell legislators that the cuts must end, we offered solutions,” said Alicia Fletty, a new member from Vancouver, who along with other members talked with more than 30 Senator and Representatives as they came out of their respective sessions.
Members stressed three issues with legislators:
“I’m proud that so many nursing home workers came to Olympia to fight for quality long-term care,” said Donna Peake, who works at Pacific Specialty & Rehab Care in Vancouver. “Our hard work to build strength in the workplace paid off today. We stood together and made our voices heard.”