Nursing home workers of SEIU Local 2015 walk out to bring attention to poor working conditions contributing to high turnover rates, unsafe staffing levels, and bounced paychecks
During attempts to continue negotiations over the weekend, the employer presented an ultimatum to distraught workers: call off your legally-protected strike or we refuse to continue bargaining
Fresno, CA —Today, nursing home workers at Sunnyside Convalescent Hospital went on a one-day ULP (“unfair labor practices”) strike to bring attention to poor working conditions at the facility that are forcing staff to leave in droves.
Since February, nursing home workers and 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. This makes already poor conditions at the nursing home even more unsafe for both residents and staff. Furthermore, management at Sunnyside announced over the weekend that they would refuse to continue negotiations with its staff after nursing home workers exercised their right to strike.
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 whopping 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.”
“Nursing homes have been California’s ‘ground zero’ during this pandemic, and we are proud to support our members as they go on strike to say that enough is enough,” said Dereck Smith, Executive Vice President of SEIU Local 2105. “The lack of movement in these contract negotiations is completely unacceptable, the pay day shenanigans are unbelievable, and the staff turnover is alarming. With half of all nursing home workers across the state saying they’re likely to leave within a year, 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.
The poll mentioned above found that staffing shortages in the healthcare industry were the number one concern of nursing home workers—edging out inflation, COVID-19, affordable healthcare, affordable housing, and the economy, among other issues. 82% said they were extremely concerned, with an additional 8% expressing concern.
Despite the threats of the Sunnyside management team, workers at the facility will continue to use every tool they have to pressure the employer into doing the right thing for staff, residents and their families.