Amsterdam News Staff

New year, new labor disputes.

Caregivers at more than three dozen for-profit Long Island and New York City nursing homes have voted to strike, with the desire to improve continuity of resident care and secure living wages and benefits for nursing home workers.

“Our members voted to strike because we felt we had no other way to challenge nursing home owners putting profits before people,” said Leroy Bradford, a physical therapy assistant at the Bushwick Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare, in a statement. “Despite all of the many obstacles that we face on a daily basis, like inadequate staffing levels and short supplies, we still get the job done because we care for our residents’ well being. What nursing home management has proposed is very insulting.

“As the primary caregivers, all that we are asking for is a fair contract with a living wage and benefits so that we can have the peace of mind to take care of our families and continue to give valuable care to our residents.”

Nursing home workers voted by 95 percent to authorize a strike after attempting for several months to reach a contract settlement. The workers are represented by 1199SEIU.

“Our nursing home caregivers often go above the call of duty to provide comfort and care to their residents,” said 1199SEIU Nursing Home Division Executive Vice President Yvonne Armstrong in a statement. “They dig into their own pockets to buy clothes or blankets and pick up the slack so that nursing home owners maintain their profits. Caregivers have done more than their fair share, and it’s time for the owners to show respect to both their residents and their staff.

“The owners have a responsibility to secure quality care and make sure nursing home jobs are good jobs. Unless we take this stand, our caregivers will continue to shoulder the burden and the care of our residents will suffer.”

Caregivers say they are concerned about the lack of continuity when it comes to care for their residents, as their agencies rely more and more on temp staffers to supplement the understaffing of full-time workers. They said that owners have submitted proposals that would cut their wages and health care benefits and would lead staff to either look for additional work or leave the nursing home altogether to the detriment of residents.

Workers hoped to settle their contract dispute at a Jan. 26 negotiation session and plan on moving forward with a strike if a deal isn’t reached. It would be their first strike since 2003.