Despite generating healthy profits, Heritage Care demands wage freeze for their front-line workforce
By TIM ROWDEN
Heritage Care Center nursing home CNAs, CMTs, housekeepers, dietary workers, and restorative aides gathered at the corner of North Hanley Road and Dragonwyck Ave. recently to draw attention to their ongoing fight for a new contract and against the Home’s unfair labor practices and regressive proposals.
The workers, represented by SEIU Healthcare Missouri were joined by and State Representative Cora Faith Walker (D-Ferguson) other St. Louis area nursing home workers, including Brenda Davis, an SEIU Healthcare shop steward at Christian Care Home in Ferguson, where workers won an Unfair Labor Practices complaint and won a fair contract following a 104-day strike last winter.
Employees at Heritage Care Home now find themselves in a similar position.
UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICES
Following several months of negotiations last winter, Heritage Care management abruptly backpedaled on their previous proposals containing pay raises and instead demanded a three-year wage freeze, with no increase in starting pay and no raises.
Paula Simpson-Johnson, a restorative aide and shop steward and Heritage Home said the company is holding firm to its regressive proposal even though the state budgeted a rate increase for services and cost reports show the company and its related entities appear to be generating a healthy profit.
In response, SEIU Healthcare Missouri has filed unfair labor practice charges against Heritage Care. A trial date is set for September 10.
‘GREEDY EMPLOYERS HURT ALL OF US’
“We’ve hit the point in negotiations where we have to go public with what we’re dealing with,” Simpson-Johnson said. “I’ve worked at Heritage Care Center for 22 years. I love my job because I enjoy working with my residents. The best part of it is I like hear people’s stories about their lives, about their families and even their own experiences being union members.
“I know the residents look forward to me coming to work because they like what I do with them as far as their care. I work hard with the residents and I believe I should have that hard work respected.”
There are 75 CMAs, CNTs, housekeepers, maintenance men, hall monitors, activity aides, dietary workers and restorative aides that keep Heritage nursing home going.
“We care about our residents like they’re our own family,” Simpson-Johnson said. “We take pride in what we do. That’s why it’s so hard when you realize those running the nursing home don’t appreciate you and don’t respect you. Greedy employers hurt all of us,” she said. “We need good jobs in our community so people can support themselves and their families.
Davis, the SEIU Healthcare steward at Christian Care Home in Ferguson, told workers the most important thing they can do in fighting for a fair contract is to stick together.
“We went 104 days on strike in the cold. It was hard,” Davis said. “Hopefully, you won’t have to deal with that. But I’m telling you now, be strong. Stick together. Trust me, they know what happened down in Ferguson and they don’t want that. But it’s going to take the power of the workers sticking together. Let them know you’re all together.
“We’ve got your back,” Davis said. “We’re here with you and we’re going to stand with you, because let me tell you something about SEIU, when we fight, we win.”
Representative Walker, who walked the strike line and stood with Christian Care workers last winter had a similar message of solidarity.
“The power is the power of the people,” Walker said. “That’s where the power comes from.
“I just want to let you all know that the Missouri House of Representatives, my colleagues, the Democrats support you. We’ve just got to let Heritage Care know that it’s time to start taking care of the people that take care of the people that we love…. freezing wages and not giving raises, is not taking care of people.”