HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Thirty-three Connecticut nursing homes received notifications on Friday that their unionized workers are ready to strike on May 14 if demands aren't met for better wages, benefits and staffing ratios.
More than 3,400 workers are employed at the affected homes, which are owned by the chains Genesis Healthcare, iCare Health Network, RegalCare and Autumn Lake Healthcare. A total of 51 nursing home contracts have expired in Connecticut as of March 15, and workers at the remaining facilities could potentially issue strike notices as well in the coming days.
“Connecticut’s long-term care system relies on poverty wages. By going on strike, we are telling nursing home operators and the state of Connecticut that we are not willing to carry the yoke of poverty any longer,” said Rob Baril, president of the union District 1199 New England, SEIU, in a statement. “It’s time for nursing home bosses and state leaders to pay these workers what they deserve.”
The Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, an association of 150 skilled nursing facilities and assisted living communities, urged nursing home operators and unionized workers to remain at the bargaining table so the workers can remain on the job. Matt Barrett, the group's president, said his members face “unprecedented financial instability” due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lower-than-usual occupancy rates.
Barrett said his members have been “sounding an alarm bell” to the General Assembly and Lamont's office for the “urgent need for a significant increase in funding" to address decades of underfunding in Medicaid payments and the increased costs from the pandemic.
Previously, Barrett raised concerns that his members may not be able to find replacement workers to staff their facilities if agreements are not reached on the expiring labor contracts and there are walkouts.
The union represents registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, certified nursing assistants, receptionists, dietary aides, housekeeping and laundry staff. It said staff at more nursing homes are expected to join the work stoppage as strike votes continue.