By TIM ROWDEN
Ferguson, MO – Nursing home workers at Christian Care Home, members of SEIU Healthcare Missouri and Kansas, went on strike Dec. 1 against the facility’s unfair labor practices and unjust contract offer.
SEIU represents 100 direct care workers at the 150-bed home, including nursing assistants, dietary care workers and housekeepers. They began contract negotiations in July. The workers’ contract expired in early November.
The median wage for a nursing assistant at the home is $9.65 an hour. Workers are asking for a 75-cent across the board raise, but management has refused.
“Their answer has been ‘zero,’” said Lenny Jones, Missouri state director for SEIU Healthcare. “Their answer is no raises.”
SEIU and representatives of the Christian Care board met with a federal mediator Nov. 30 but were unable to reach a resolution.
UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICES
Brenda Davis, a restorative aide, Certified Nursing Assistant and Certified Medication Technician, who is part of the union’s bargaining team, said the union has filed an Unfair Labor Practices complaint against management of the home charging management has violated the conditions of the existing contract by:
• Making unilateral changes to staffing, hours and scheduling without bargaining with the union;
• Canceling or not allowing employees to use their vacation time;
• Failing to answer 13 outstanding grievances;
• Cancelling scheduled bargaining meetings, and refusing to make representatives available for bargaining;
• Failing to provide relevant information to the union in a timely manner; and
• Restricting workers in the exercise of their rights.
The National Labor Relations Board is currently investigating the complaint.
“It hurts me to even think about leaving our residents,” Davis said. “But they’ve not been bargaining in good faith. We’ve been going through so much disrespect and it has caused so much ruckus in our building in the way that we work. From housekeeping to dietary workers and our residents. We’ve been working so short, working so many hours and they’re cutting our staff. Our residents are having breakdowns in their care. Our building is not maintained properly. This is a brand-new building and it has a stench to it. We’re dealing with so many issues, it’s forced us to have to take this measure.
“This is serious for us,” Davis said. “This is all that we have. I have two young children myself and a disabled husband. To stand up and do what we have to do is very serious. This is our lives and our livelihood. But we have to stand up.”
‘LIVE UP TO THEIR CHRISTIAN NAME’
At a Nov. 30 press conference announcing the strike, Rev. Tommie Pierson, Sr., senior pastor of Greater St. Mark Church in Ferguson and a 32-year UAW member who served in the Missouri House of Representatives, called on Christian Care Home board members to uphold the Christian values upon which their association was founded by treating its workers with dignity and respect and coming into full compliance with labor law.
“I’m proud to stand here with the workers who care about the vulnerable residents of Christian Care Home,” Pierson said. “These are the hard-working folks who take care of our loved ones. They attend the basic needs or our mothers, fathers, grandparents and loved ones who can no longer care for themselves. They feed them, bathe them, dress them, help them to go to the bathroom. And they make sure that they are safe and have their needs met.
“It’s these workers who are the ones giving the Christian care,” Pierson said. “They are working hard each and every day to meet those needs. And they’re doing it now despite the owners many unfair labor practices. This facility needs to live up to its Christian name.”
STATE FUNDING CUTS MAKING MATTERS WORSE
Missouri’s nursing homes like the Christian Care absorbed a 3.5 percent cut to Medicaid funding this year after Gov. Eric Greitens vetoed a bill that would have allocated additional funding to long-term care facilities and in-home services.
Reuters news service reports nursing home operators nationally are suffering from lower government reimbursements and higher costs.
The GOP tax plan could make matters worse by forcing cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and other taxpayer-funded programs to make up for the projected $1.4 trillion deficit created by proposed tax cuts for corporations and wealthy families.