Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

“You Want Us to Put Our Life on the Line, But Won’t Give Us What We Need”: Hundreds of Nursing Home Workers Are On Strike

Hundreds of nursing home workers are currently on strike, demanding higher wages, PPE and better staffing ratios.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

November 30, 2020
Facebook Twitter Share
Image: Ashlee Rezin Garcia, Chicago Sun-Times

“You want us to come in and work, put our life on the line but you don’t want to give us what we need,” 

– Jerome Williams, Infinity Healthcare CNA.

Around 700 workers in 11 nursing homes run by Infinity Healthcare Management are entering their second week on strike. The workers, who are part of SEIU Healthcare, are demanding higher wages, hazard pay and better staffing. They are also demanding PPE, which is in short supply and could mean life or death for the elderly as well as for the workers. Many of whom are women, and they are overwhelmingly people of color. These sectors are disproportionately represented among essential workers, and are also disproportionately underpaid and treated as expendable. 

Roslyn Regans has worked at Lakeview Nursing and Rehab Center for 15 years. She is a cancer survivor and in a high risk category for Covid-19, as her immune system is still compromised.  Yet, she continues to go to work day in and day out, without hazard pay and for obscenely low wages. “We are striking right now. It’s the last thing we wanted to do, but we resorted to it because we couldn’t reach an agreement with one of the owners… We are very short staffed right now. Even before the pandemic we were short-staffed. And we’re short staffed because of the wages we are making.” 

The base pay at the homes owned by Infinity Healthcare Management is $13.30. Regans, who has worked at the center for 15 years, only makes 17.35 dollars an hour. Workers are demanding a two dollar raise, but the company is refusing. Infinity Healthcare Management is owned by Envision Healthcare Corporation which is in turn owned by KKR & Co. Inc., a private equity firm which posted a profit of $1.06 billion and is worth $21.7 billion on the stock market. KKR pays its billionaire executives upward of $200 million, and the CEO of Envision earns in excess of $7 million a year — and in 2016 made over $21 million. There is plenty of money for the executives of these companies but little for the workers

Regans explains that Infinity  “got 12.7 million dollars from the federal government and refused to give us any of it. He got that off the sweat of us. Our hard labor.” The payment was part of the CARES Act, but the workers haven’t received a permanent raise. At first, workers got hazard pay, but in July, hazard pay stopped. And if you called out sick, you forfeited your hazard pay. 

Right now, Regans is working with patients who have Covid in the building. 

The 11 nursing homes that are affected by the strike include City View Multicare Center in Cicero, which had 249 coronavirus cases, and Niles Nursing & Rehabilitation in Niles, which had 54 Covid-19-related deaths. 

Infinity-run nursing homes are notoriously short staffed due to the low wages provided. Janice Hill, who has worked at City View Multicare Center in Cicero for 12 years makes $14.10 an hour and cares for 33 residents during her night shift. “The poverty wages that nursing home workers are paid creates a downward spiral where no one wants to work at a nursing home, which creates a staffing crisis and forces good workers to leave.” 

Regans explains, “I have had up to 24 residents by myself. You cannot give quality care to that many residents. It’s impossible. You could be the best CNA in the world, but you can’t give quality care to 24 residents.” 

On Mondays, doctors and nurses joined the nursing home caregivers on the picket line.

“It is unconscionable for workers to not have the PPE that they need to protect themselves, so they can provide quality care to the residents of these homes,” said Paul Pater, a registered nurse and chief steward for the Illinois Nurses Association at University of Illinois Hospital.

“This particular nursing home network appears not to want to pay the living wage to attract workers … to take care of patients. So I’m here today to support these front-line heroes, and to say it’s not enough to call them heroes, but they must get a living wage as well,” said Dr Peter Orris, professor and chief of occupational and environmental medicine at University of Illinois Hospital.

Nursing home workers are among the essential workers who have been consistently under-paid and forced to work in the most hazardous conditions. Their labor, blood, sweat and tears create the profit for CEO’s who are hiding away in their summer homes at the beach or in the Hamptons: the leeches who suck all the profit from workers and patients are not essential. They aren’t even around. The nursing home workers deserve 15 dollars an hour — and much much more. They deserve staffing ratios that allow them to do their jobs: to care for the elderly in this horrible time when many are cut off from seeing family for fear of the virus. 

Nursing homes, like the entire healthcare industry should not be private commodities: these should be public services, free and accessible to the whole population. And they should not be run by private corporations who only have profits in mind but by patients, their families and workers.

Solidarity with the striking nursing home workers.

Facebook Twitter Share

Tatiana Cozzarelli

Tatiana is a former middle school teacher and current Urban Education PhD student at CUNY.

Labor Movement

Amazon workers protesting the company's union busting.

Our Lives and Labor Stolen from Us: Reflections of a Black Amazon Worker

"A journal entry on my experience as a Black Amazon worker. I dedicate this entry to Tyre Nichols and to all victims of police and military violence here and abroad; our enemy is the same."

Carmin Maffea

February 1, 2023

Higher Ed Strike Fever: This Morning, Temple’s Grad Students Walked off the Job

TUGSA, organizing Temple University’s graduate students, walked out on strike this morning. Winning will take bottom-up organizing from Temple’s unions and undergraduates, shoulder to shoulder with TUGSA on the pickets.

Jason Koslowski

January 31, 2023
Temple University undergraduate students in Philadelphia walking outside a main building.

Temple’s Undergrads Are Taking On the University Bosses

At Temple University, undergraduate students are joining the ranks of higher ed workers who are fighting back.

Jason Koslowski

January 30, 2023

The Higher Ed Labor Movement Runs Full Speed Ahead into 2023

Just thirteen days into the new year, a new set of strikes are already brewing in the higher education labor movement.

Olivia Wood

January 13, 2023

MOST RECENT

Protesters in Paris over proposed pension reforms.

‘Robin Hood’ Strikes in France: Workers Provide Free Energy for Hospitals, Schools, and Low-Income Homes

Last week, energy workers in France provided free energy for hospitals, schools, low-income households, and libraries. They show that the working class holds the keys to the economy, and can put these resources in the service of society.

Otto Fors

February 1, 2023

No to NATO Tanks in Ukraine, Let’s Fight the Escalation!

Left Voice and our comrades in Germany issue a joint statement against NATO sending tanks to Ukraine. We call on the working class to organize against this reactionary war which continues to escalate.

Left Voice

January 31, 2023

The New York Times Is Wrong: Trans Kids Need Support, Not “Gender Skepticism”

While state legislatures across the country have launched an unprecedented attack on trans youth, the New York Times saw fit to publish a pair of articles calling on liberals to make space for “gender skeptical” ideas among parents. They are wrong. Trans kids need more support, not gender skepticism.

Reba Landers

January 31, 2023
Detroit socialist activist Tristan Taylor at a protest during 2020.

First We Mourn, Then We Organize: A Letter to Weary Black Organizers Who Have Had Enough

Tyre Nichols, and all victims of police brutality, must be mourned. But we can't stop fighting or give in to despair — we have to build an independent political party that clashes with the capitalists physically, politically, and ideologically.

Tristan Taylor

January 29, 2023