Members of SEIU 2015 will mobilize across California to address dangerously low staffing levels and low wages. Part of a national, coordinated campaign across 12+ states, this is the fifth statewide day of action calling for improvements in California’s nursing homes this year.
June 8, 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—their fifth in as many months—rallying at nursing home facility corporate offices in Los Angeles and Sacramento. This is also part of a national day of action spearheaded by SEIU, as a kickoff of their campaign across 12+ states to include worker mobilizations, advocacy, and investment aimed at urging the Biden administration, state officials, and nursing home employers to address the crisis in the industry.
Nursing home workers have identified common issues across geographies and are organizing around demands including safe staffing, unions for all, and quality, affordable care for residents. From California and beyond, these workers have identified solutions to our nation’s growing crisis in nursing homes that respect and protect workers and residents alike.
SEIU 2015 is taking their fight to a national level in a coordinated and sustained campaign that will include worker mobilizations, advocacy and investment aimed at reaching the Biden Administration, state officials, and nursing home employers directly. In California, workers demand a seat at the table with the formation of a Skilled Nursing Quality Standards Board—a key proposal in this month’s state budget negotiations. Nationally, nursing home workers raised their voices and prompted the Biden Administration to propose measures to improve nursing home jobs and hold employers accountable.
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 alone 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 working with legislators to enact change.
“The status quo in our nursing homes is not working—not for workers, residents, or for families. As the nation looks to move past Covid-19, nursing home workers and residents are facing a system on the brink of collapse,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry. “It’s Black and Brown women who are keeping nursing homes running, caring for residents even as the industry barely hangs on. These same women are supporting the communities that have been devastated by overlapping crises. That’s why workers are taking action now across the country to demand nursing home workers be respected, protected, and paid living wages.”
“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. “In order to truly transform the nursing home industry for the better, we need to implement changes that make jobs in the long-term care industry more attractive, safer, and sustainable. 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.”
Earlier this spring, 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. Union members and legislators are fighting for inclusion of this proposal in the upcoming state budget.
After weeks of advocacy and nursing home worker mobilization, both the Senate and Assembly agreed to include $10 million in the legislative budget to establish the nursing home quality standards board. The May Revision also stated an intention to support “a long-term funding framework that assures the long-term financial viability of these vital Medi-Cal providers is predicated on enabling nursing facilities to invest in quality patient care, improving workforce retention, and empowering the voices of essential workers responsible for the health and safety of nursing home residents.” SEIU 2015 members are excited about the progress of the quality standards board proposal, and will continue to advocate for its inclusion in the final June budget to lift up nursing home workers and residents in every skilled nursing facility.
“Basically, we are just fed up with what feels like a broken, profit-driven system that doesn’t care about its employees or residents. If the system cared about us, we’d get better pay—not minimum wage—and better benefits. Overall, our workplace just needs to be better. I feel an array of emotions, but the negative ones are the ones leaving me feeling burned out. I’m annoyed and angry, yes, but I love working with and helping patients,” said Charisma Polk, a CNA in Los Angeles. “They deserve a better place with better care to live out the rest of their lives. We need—not want, need—increased staffing and training, increased quality of care for patients, better benefits and wages, and affordable healthcare coverage for all employees.”
For years, nursing home workers have been taking local action to demand respect on the job, greater protections and livable wages. Far too many are being held back by employers who refuse to provide living wages, affordable healthcare, paid sick leave, or secure retirement. Employers have long devalued and dismissed the largely women of color care workforce, furthering the economic, racial, and gender inequities that hold all working people back.
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.