After their one-day strike last month, nursing home workers of SEIU 2015 will begin an indefinite strike in protest of intimidation and retaliation as they work to address the high turnover, low staffing, and bounced paychecks they’ve endured as employees of Sunnyside Convalescent Hospital.
Fresno, CA —Today, nursing home workers at Sunnyside Convalescent Hospital began their indefinite ULP (“unfair labor practices”) strike to bring attention to poor working conditions at the facility that are forcing staff to leave in droves.
Last month, the nursing home workers held a one-day walkout to bring attention to their poor working conditions, despite pushback from their employer who presented an ultimatum to the distraught workers: facility operators would refuse to continue negotiations with their staff after nursing home workers exercised their right to strike.
Despite this intimidation, these determined workers did not call the strike off. In fact, they did just the opposite: during their one-day strike, they delivered another notice of their intent to strike—this time for an indefinite length of time—if management did not reach agreement on a contract to address the high turnover and other issues.
Starting today, Sunnyside workers are now striking once again.
Since February, nursing home workers—members of SEIU 2015, California’s largest union representing more than 400,000 long-term care workers—have been in contract negotiations with the facility’s corporate management team. However, the management team refuses to offer any meaningful proposals that could end the mass exodus of workers. In fact, the facility continues to pay workers less than state mandated minimum wages for nursing home workers. While the employer continues to stall at the bargaining table, workers report that more and more of their co-workers are quitting. In the last year-and-a-half, there’s been a dramatic 75% decline in staff on the payroll. The skyrocketing staff turnover rate has left the remaining workers to take on additional responsibilities that some are not qualified to perform. To complicate matters, employees also report that their paychecks are bouncing. Some have been forced to pay bounced check fees, as well as late fees incurred when their own bill payments don’t clear.
In addition to bounced checks, some staff are being paid in gift cards. Employees receiving the gift cards say they’ve been told that all normal payroll deductions have been applied, but they’re not able to verify. The employer is not providing proof. Union leaders have attempted numerous times to seek answers and resolution, including payroll stubs for employees.
“Recently, I was the only CNA on duty for 32 residents—more than half of them are incontinent. That means people are in soiled bedclothes much, much longer than they should be,” said Nora Garcia, a CNA at the facility. “That’s so upsetting to our residents. The call lights were going crazy. Then I’m in the middle of finally giving someone a shower, and somebody told me that one of the residents had a wife and other family waiting in the lobby to see him. He requires total care and I was right in the middle of this other shower. You can’t rush a shower. That family waited nearly an hour to see their loved one.”
“I’m already earning minimum wage here. I can’t afford the late fees my bank charges me for bounced paychecks,” said Sylvia Gomez, a housekeeper at the facility. “So now, I go straight to the owner’s bank to cash my paycheck there so I can avoid bouncing a check at my bank. Sometimes the owner’s bank tells me there are insufficient funds. We’ve started racing to the bank as soon as we get paid and hope we get there quickly enough. It’s sort of like first come, first served. No one should have to get paid this way. The only reason I stay is because I imagine it’s my parents staying there. I do it for our residents.”
“We are proud to support our members as they begin their indefinite strike,” said Dereck Smith, Executive Vice President of SEIU Local 2015. “With half of all nursing home workers across the state saying they’re likely to leave within a year, the urgency of this strike is undeniable. We need to address these issues immediately, and this process can only begin once facility operators finally agree to treat their workers with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
The workers’ bargaining team says the lack of movement in these contract negotiations is unacceptable and that Sunnyside operators must be held accountable. A poll earlier this year indicated half of nursing home workers across the state saying they’re likely to leave within a year, revealing that the care industry is at a crisis point…and Sunnyside is proof.
With no end in sight, the Sunnyside workers will begin their strike in hopes of eventual acknowledgment from the Sunnyside management team. In the interim, the workers will use every tool they have to pressure the employer into protecting their staff, residents and their families.