Members of SEIU 2015—also joined this time by nonunion workers fighting for a union—will again mobilize across the state in a series of actions to address dangerously low staffing levels and the “Great Resignation” that continues to plague nursing homes. Workers call for statewide quality standards.
April 22, 2022, Los Angeles, CA – Today, SEIU Local 2015, the nation’s largest long-term care union and California’s largest labor union representing more than 400,000 nursing home workers and home care providers, is holding a statewide day of action—the third in as many months—rallying at nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the state. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated a pre-existing crisis in California’s nursing home industry, with essential caregivers—mostly women, mostly women of color—leaving at alarming rates due to low wages and the dangerous workplace conditions laid bare over the last two years.
SEIU Local 2015 members are participating in actions throughout California in order to highlight the care industry crisis, show member support for improved conditions, and to put pressure on those with the power to make the necessary change. Last month, SEIU Local 2015, in partnership with California State Senator Henry Stern and Assembly member Miguel Santiago, proposed a statewide Quality Standards Board to establish a number of industry-wide standards for California’s nursing homes and their essential workers, including setting an industry-wide minimum wage, implementing safe staffing level requirements, strengthening benefits including access to healthcare and paid sick leave, and enforcing certain training requirements. It would also give those on the front lines an important seat at the table.
“Despite finally being recognized as heroes during the early months of the pandemic, our long-term care workers, majority women of color, don’t receive the pay, benefits, or respect that adequately reflect the essential and valuable nature of their job,” said April Verrett, President of SEIU Local 2015. “This has led to a dire staffing crisis that our members feel the impact of every day when they start their shifts understaffed. We’re taking action today to bring attention to the urgent need to invest in our frontline heroes and the vulnerable folks they care for.”
Nursing homes workers were hit hard by COVID-19, suffering high infection rates that brought long overdue national attention to this broken industry. More than 238,000 nursing home workers left the industry nationwide since the start of the pandemic. California lost 11% of its nursing home workforce, while demand increases. Each month’s action since February signals the growing frustration and the growing crisis as momentum builds in workers’ urgent calls for improved standards. Nursing home workers are determined to make their voices heard and are putting pressure on legislators to enact change.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 82,000 nursing home workers contracted COVID-19 , and tragically, 247 of those essential caregivers passed away.
“These numbers are startling, but numbers can’t even begin to tell the full story of what it was like to work in in the pandemic’s most dangerous conditions – the stress, the fear, the heartbreak,” said Jesus Figueroa Cacho, CNA of over 25 years currently working in Auburn, California. “For generations, nursing home owners have kept wages low by exploiting the labor of women and people of color. In the pandemic, these poverty wages became deadly for us, as many workers have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, unknowingly carrying the virus from facility to facility.”
This day of action comes on the heels of numerous actions recently taken by SEIU Local 2015 to bring attention to the crisis facing the broader long-term care community—both in private homes and in nursing homes in California – including recent demonstrations at both the Los Angeles and Alameda County Board of Supervisors offices in support of the “Time for $20” campaign.
Participating SEIU members will be available on-site at all locations for interviews and can speak to today’s actions in addition to the breadth of work the Union is doing to combat this crisis and ensure better wages and benefits for their members, with the goal of dramatically reforming the industry for its long-term survival.
To learn more about SEIU Local 2015 visit www.SEIU2015.org or on social media @SEIU2015.