(WHTM) — Nursing home workers across Pennsylvania, including in the Midstate, are walking out as a contract agreement with employers has not been reached.
At The Gardens at Blue Ridge in Susquehanna Township, workers headed to the picket line at 7 a.m. Friday. About 700 workers at 14 homes in the state were set to go on strike on Sept. 2.
Workers at Guardian-owned nursing homes represented by SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania reached a tentative contract agreement, but those at Comprehensive Healthcare and Priority Healthcare Group homes have not. Negotiations with Comprehensive Healthcare and Priority Healthcare started Thursday morning and ended in the early hours of Friday morning, according to information from SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania.
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In the Midstate, workers at The Gardens at West Shore in Camp Hill and Rose City Health and Rehab in Lancaster also walked out to the picket line 7 a.m. Friday, in addition to those at The Gardens at Blue Ridge. Workers at four more nursing homes, including one in Gettysburg and one in Camp Hill, plan to join the picket link on Sept. 9.
“I wouldn’t be anywhere else but out here on this line,” Shelley Robinson, a certified nursing assistant at Rose City Health, said. “We’re asking for what we’re worth.”
Robinson has worked at the nursing home for over a decade.
“I like taking care of people so why not make that your life?” she said.
This comes months after the state approved $600 million for caregiving in nursing homes, 70 percent of which is to be spent on staffing and bedside care.
Robinson said one goal of the strike is making sure they see that money.
“We deserve every penny that is meant for us out of that $600 million,” she said.
With that, workers want better pay, health care benefits, and staffing conditions.
“We have two housekeepers. How could two housekeepers take care of four floors?” Robinson said.
Robinson said after what nursing home workers went through during COVID, they deserve this support.
“We were here during the pandemic, day in and day out, 12 and 16 hours. Sometimes spent more hours here than we spent in our own homes,” she said.
Matthew Yarnell, president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, said, “Workers have some righteous anger in this moment and deserve the respect.”
Workers and SEIU officials said they are prepared to continue striking until a better deal is reached.
“We’re prepared to negotiate through the weekend,” Yarnell said.
Yarnell also released a statement, saying, “Our goal has always been — and continues to be — to get a fair contract that invests in this entire workforce and will meaningfully address the staffing crisis, but the offers on the table still fall short.”
SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania organizer Daniel Davin said, “The reality is, these jobs are really important, and we’re trying to make sure that the owners understand how important they are.”
Robinson said she has a message for her employers as she stands in solidarity with her coworkers.
“Be on the right side of this nursing crisis, so when the history books are written, you’re not on the wrong side. You’re with the workers, with the people who make you the millions,” she said.
According to an SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania release from Sept. 2, no additional bargaining dates have been set yet, but “workers are hopeful to get back to the table as soon as possible.”