By TIM ROWDEN
Ferguson, MO – As their strike over unfair labor practices continues, SEIU Healthcare employees at Christian Care Home in Ferguson are standing strong in their demand for a fair contract.
Workers at the nursing home went on strike Dec. 1 over management’s refusal to obey labor law and bargain in good faith.
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, $1.60 per hour less than the area standard. Workers are asking for a 75-cent across the board raise, but management has refused.
UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICES
The union has filed an unfair labor practice charge against Christian Care Home for allegedly:
• Making unilateral changes to staffing, hours and schedules without negotiating.
• Failing to answer grievances.
• Cancelling scheduled bargaining meetings and not being available for bargaining.
• Failing to provide relevant information in a timely manner, and otherwise restricting workers in the exercise of their rights.
The National Labor Relations Board is currently investigating.
‘TURNING THEIR BACK ON US’
“I’m out here striking for better conditions, for our contract and for the raises we deserve,” said Lisa Cunningham a Certified Medication Technician (CMT) and Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) who has worked for 14 years at the home. “We’ve supported them. We’ve been there through thick and thin with this building and they’re turning their back on us.”
CNA Deborah Tyler has worked at the home for 22 years. In that time, she has received only four raises.
“We’ve got families we have to feed, too,” she said. “That’s why I’m out here making a stand, not just for the wages but for the respect we deserve.”
Beauty Jones has been working at the home for more than 30 years. She is currently a CMT, but says management doesn’t respect her training or experience.
“I’d come in to pass out meds and I’d be scheduled to work the floor,” she said. “And they’d have somebody that’s only been here two weeks passing out meds.”
Jones said she was also prevented from taking vacation time at Thanksgiving. Jones said she was told she couldn’t take off because she had been off the previous holiday, but when she reported for work, she wasn’t on the schedule.
“It’s just harassment,” she said.
CNA Danielle Jones has only worked at the home for a year but has already experienced problems with understaffing and seen the disparity in how employees are treated.
Nurses recently received a $2 to $3 per hour raise, she said, but management has refused to consider raises for anyone else.
“I’m here striking for better wages and better working conditions with my co-workers,” she said. “We’re tired.”
With the holidays approaching and cold weather setting in, the workers faced a tough decision going on strike, but their fight has been well received in the community.
Faith leaders and other union members have come to walk the picket line with them and area residents have kept up a near constant cacophony of honking horns as they drive by on Chambers Road.
Community supporters recently hosted a holiday-themed rally for workers and the public with a potluck, a toy drive for the children and grandchildren of striking workers at Greater St. Mark Family Church, and a strong message for Christian Care ownership – demanding they show their Christian spirit this holiday season by settling a fair contract with workers.