Agreement includes wage increases, favorable health insurance provisions, seniority protection
BY TIM ROWDEN
Ferguson, MO — After 104 days on the strike line, nursing home workers at Christian Care Home are celebrating a long-fought for victory — the settlement of a favorable contract providing for wage increases, fair provisions for health insurance coverage, seniority protection and prompt payouts of Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) and grievance settlements.
WHAT THEY WON
The contract that management agreed to, and which workers voted overwhelmingly to ratify March 14, provides for:
• Guaranteed raises throughout the life of the contract.
• Christian Care to pay the increase in health insurance rates for 2018, and to pay for half of any increase to insurance rates for 2019 and 2020.
• Payouts of Unfair Labor Practice and grievance settlements within 10 days.
• Respect for worker seniority as workers return to work, with striking workers returning to their original status and shift, as feasible with current facility occupation rate.
Elected and faith leaders, community allies, and residents’ families joined Christian Care Home strikers on the morning of Monday, March 19, to usher them back into work and celebrate their hard-won victory.
STRIKE PROMPTED BY UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICES
The workers, members of SEIU Healthcare Missouri and Kansas, went on strike Dec. 1, following Christian Care management’s refusal to follow labor law.
At the start of the strike, workers filed multiple ULP charges against Christian Care Home for making unilateral changes to staffing, hours and schedules, failing to provide relevant information in a timely manner, and otherwise restricting workers in the exercise of their rights.
As the strike progressed from days to weeks and crept into the holiday season, management further challenged strikers’ resolve with additional unlawful acts, which resulted in workers having to file the additional ULP charges that Christian Care Home threatened recent hires with termination for joining the strike and denied accrued and earned benefits to striking employees.
“We went on strike because management wasn’t respecting our rights on the job, and then instead of doing the right thing — they showed us further disrespect,” said Brenda Davis, a union steward and certified nursing assistant. “I think they thought if they treated us badly enough, we would give up, but that just made us more determined to stand up for ourselves and our residents.”
With support from community allies, faith leaders and elected officials, strikers braved a cold and impoverished holiday season, and reinvigorated their fight for a fair contract in the new year by marching in the St. Louis MLK Day march carrying signs invoking his legendary support of striking sanitation workers in Memphis 50 years before.
“From day one of their strike, I was impressed with how the workers were on the picket line not just for themselves, but for the whole community,” said state Representative Bruce Franks (D-St. Louis), a vocal supporter of the strikers. “When they stood up for themselves on the job, they were demanding that they be treated with dignity and respect — and that all workers be afforded that same dignity and respect, whatever the color of their skin.”
Another outspoken supporter of the striking workers, Representative Cora Faith Walker (D-Ferguson), was a frequent visitor to the picket line — and made more than one visit to Christian Care management on strikers’ and residents’ behalf.
“It was clear to me that workers had no choice but to go on strike given the multiple unfair labor practices they were facing,” Walker said.
“And it was just as clear to me that management had an obligation not just to workers but also to residents to resolve these issues and treat workers fairly, so they could get back to providing care for the residents they love,” she said. “I am inspired by the workers’ bravery and persistence. They won this victory, for themselves and for residents, by standing strong and not backing down.”
REFUSED TO GIVE UP
The St. Louis regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found merit to the union’s Unfair Labor Practices charges in late February, setting the stage for the negotiated settlement.
“We knew that the NLRB was likely to find in workers’ favor,” said Lenny Jones, Missouri state director for SEIU Healthcare. “It was always a matter of timing and perseverance. Management seemed to be betting on workers giving up before Christian Care had to face any real consequences for their Unfair Labor Practices. But the strikers kept standing strong — and that meant Christian Care had to either settle a fair contract or go to trial.”