On the Picket Line

Patient care, working conditions led to nursing home strike

By Kathie Fitzgerald
October 3, 2022

PITTSBURGH — Workers from 13 of the 14 nursing homes in Pennsylvania took down their picket lines Sept. 9 after a week on strike. SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, their union, reached a tentative agreement with Comprehensive Healthcare and Priority Healthcare. The workers included certified nursing assistants, dietary and maintenance staff.

The strike was put on hold due to the tentative agreement. The one remaining home without an agreement is independently owned Shenandoah Heights Healthcare in Schuylkill County.

Shannon McBride, SEIU local president at the Grove at Irwin, a Comprehensive facility, told the Militant that one key issue was low wages of only $15 an hour for CNAs and even less for dietary and maintenance workers. Also in dispute is inadequate staffing and high medical insurance premiums.

Prior to the strike on Aug. 12, Donna Pronio, a 20-year CNA at Shenandoah Heights Healthcare, spoke at a SEIU virtual press conference, noting the “disregard and disrespect with which we are treated, including very poor health care insurance. How can we care for others,” she asked, “when we can’t care for ourselves?”

The tentative contract includes improvement in health care over the original offer and across-the-board pay increases. “The raises for the support staff will jump,” Denise Cox, administrative organizer for SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, told the Militant.

She said the last few years have been very hard for nursing home workers. With the COVID epidemic, families couldn’t visit the residents and often it was a CNA member who sat beside the bed when residents died. “But when it came to getting a decent contract,” she said, “all they got was a slap in the face. That’s why the workers voted to strike.”