Nursing Home Workers At The Grand At Pawling Win First Union Contract
1199SEIU Members Employed By A Statewide, For-Profit, Corporate Nursing Home Network, The Grand Health System,
Work Together To Resolve Staffing and Quality Care Issues
Late Thursday afternoon, on November 9, one hundred nursing home workers at The Grand at Pawling, members of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Worker East, overwhelmingly ratified their first collective bargaining agreement since voting to join the largest healthcare workers’ union in the country, three years ago. The nursing home, part of the statewide for-profit, corporate network, The Grand Healthcare System, is located in the southeast Hudson Valley near the Connecticut border. It is about 70 miles south of New York City. Workers at five other nursing homes owned by the network (in Queens, Poughkeepsie, Guilderland, Chittenango and Rome) are also 1199SEIU members who already have legally binding contracts.
The settlement is the culmination of a long struggle, which began with the workers’ successful organizing effort and turned into a protracted three-year contract fight. Negotiations focused on the connection between decent wages and benefits that impact the nursing home’s ability to recruit and retain workers and provide the quality care required to help frail, ill and elderly residents.
The Pawling workers, who had been receiving below-market wages and offered unaffordable health insurance for years, settled a contract that provides significant wage increases in the first year (for some as high as 11%), and takes into consideration experience. Another raise is set for 2018. The contract includes affordable health benefits (some will save hundreds of dollars), the 1199SEIU Greater New York Education Fund, a joint labor/management program that provides training, upgrading and education opportunities for workers, and for the first time, increases in shift differentials, and vacation, sick and holiday time.
Over the last year, it became clear the employer’s business practices at Pawling, which created frequent staff turnover and short-staffing, were not isolated. 1199 members employed by The Grand Health System across New York were having the same concerns. At every facility, the caregivers were troubled by short-staffing, high rates of staff turnover, the over-utilization of temporary agency workers—and its impact on the continuity and quality of resident care.
Earlier in the fall, 1199 members at The Grand at Pawling, along with members at The Grand facilities at Guilderland and River Valley (Poughkeepsie), held simultaneous pickets, demanding better staffing and quality care for their residents. Those picket lines were further supported by actions taken by 1199 members employed at The Grand at Queens and upstate at The Grand at Chittenango and Rome, who wore stickers, signed solidarity petitions, and walked into management offices.
One month after the pickets, the workers had a tentative agreement and ratified their contract. 1199SEIU Executive Vice-President Greg Speller said, “The contract agreement at The Grand at Pawling stands out as an example of the strength of union healthcare workers, who are no longer negotiating with the small, not-for-profit organizations that used to operate nursing homes. The nursing home industry has transformed into a number of for-profit business investments with a handful of networks operating multiple institutions. When profit, rather than the residents and their caregivers, becomes the motivating factor, union healthcare workers have the collective strength to pushback network policies and practices that put quality care at risk. Make no mistake, it is the voices of the direct caregivers that must be heard to ensure quality care.”
Sue Stoveland, a recreation aide and member of the 1199 Pawling Negotiating Committee said, “The contract gives us the foundation we need to improve our residents’ lives—and our lives. Nursing home workers must be able to care for our own families, at the same time we take care of others. Even the most dedicated caregiver would be forced to leave our nursing home because they couldn’t make ends meet at home. With the new contract, more workers will stay and continuity of care, which has been a big problem, will improve.
Throughout 2018, the collective bargaining agreements at the other Grand Health System nursing homes will expire, and will be re-negotiated. The newest agreement at The Grand at Pawling expires on October 31, 2019.
1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in America. We represent over 400,000 nurses and caregivers throughout Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Florida. Our mission is to achieve quality care and good jobs for all.