By TIM ROWDEN
SEIU Healthcare Missouri nursing home workers, joined by Jobs with Justice and Metropolitan Congregations United, held a vigil June 18 outside Royal Oaks Nursing and Rehab, 4960 Laclede Ave., St. Louis, to commemorate healthcare workers, residents, and patients who have died from COVID-19, and to honor those who have survived the virus.
Local pastors offered prayers and participants lit candles in honor patients co-workers, family and friends who have died from the virus, or who became sick with the virus and recovered.
Workers also read a National Bill of Rights for Nursing Home Workers outlining workers’ demands and then marched from the nursing home to S. Kingshighway Boulevard and around the block, carrying signs demanding paid time off and hazard pay.
Three months into the coronavirus pandemic, more than 44,000 residents and nursing home workers nationwide have died.
“Every worker and every nursing home resident has an essential human right to live and thrive,” the union said in statement. “We believe that every worker – Black, White, Brown, Asian Pacific Islander – deserves the support and protections to keep themselves, their families and their communities safe.
The demands in the bill of rights include:
- Racial and economic justice for all workers.
- Unions for all nursing home workers so that they have a voice in delivering care and can make the low-paying dangerous jobs of nursing home workers into good jobs.
- Frontline workers be given a voice at state tables to establish health, safety and employment standards across the industry.
- A clear, specific plan to address the racial disparities in care for Black and Brown residents that COVID-19 has exposed.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep workers, residents and communities safe.
- Paid sick days, double-time hazard pay and free COVID-19 testing and treatment so no one is forced to go to work sick.
- Family sustaining wages and affordable healthcare.
- Enough staff to keep workers and residents safe and provide the highest quality of care.
- The end of legal protections for nursing home corporations and employers who have failed to protect all nursing home workers and residents.
- Sufficient funding for nursing homes, with clear requirements that state and federal funding goes to resident care, not corporate profits.
“We believe that by demanding a seat at the table for every nursing home worker and holding corporations and elected leaders accountable, we can transform the work we do and ensure the highest quality of care,” the union’s statement concluded.