New York City and Long Island nursing home workers were on the brink of striking, but they can put the picket signs down after securing a union contract.
Represented by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the workers reached a tentative agreement on a two-year contract with nursing home owners Feb. 12. The deal was secured after nearly a year of negotiating and bargaining for 8,000 nurses, certified nursing assistants, dietary aids, housekeepers and other workers.
Workers at the 44 nonprofit and for-profit nursing homes in New York City and on Long Island were ready to strike to protect quality care and good jobs for caregivers.
“I love my job, and I love my patients,” said Debra Brantley, a certified nursing assistant at Marquis Care Center in Glen Cove, N.Y., in a statement. “I do the best for them that I can, but our work is very tough. We lift patients and heavy equipment. It takes a toll on your body, and my benefits allow me to be there for my residents. No one wanted to go on strike, but we would have for our residents and to secure our futures. We work so hard. We fought for this, and we deserve it.”
As part of the new agreement, workers will receive 3 percent raises in each year of the contract retroactive to October 2014. It also protects workers’ health benefits and improves working conditions.
But 1199 isn’t done. The union is readying negotiations for 18,000 more nursing home workers employed by for-profit nursing homes that are part of the Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association.
Annmaire Callahan, an LPN at Avalon Gardens in Smithtown, N.Y., is thankful that workers decided to organize and secure a better deal for themselves.
“I came to Avalon Gardens and took a lower pay rate because the 1199 benefits are so good. I was able to increase my skills, pursue becoming a registered nurse and earn a bachelor’s degree through them,” said Callahan in a statement. “During bargaining, we picketed, wore our buttons, came to negotiations. All of that kept the bargaining moving and got us to this agreement.”