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Hidden with code "Submitted as Feature"
News :: Labor
Caregivers testify about short staffing, poor conditions and lack of health insurance for nursing home workers
21 Apr 2004
Nursing home caregivers testified at a special Jobs with Justice hearing about how short staffing, poor working conditions, and low pay and benefits are impacting the quality of care.
Evelyn Smith and Jean Carmel Juste cropped small version.jpg
Six nursing home caregivers testified at a hearing on April 13 about how short staffing, poor working conditions, and low pay and benefits are impacting the quality of care in Massachusetts.

Evelyn Smith, a CNA at Beverly Manor in Plymouth was one of the SEIU Local 2020 members who told her story to members of a special "workers' rights board" convened at the State House by Massachusetts Jobs with Justice. Members of the board included distinguished leaders from religious, civil rights, senior, legal and health care constituencies.

"On some nights, there are only two CNA's to care for as many as 60 residents. If two call lights go on, there is just no one left to respond to the other residents," said Smith. "Last year the taxpayers spent an additional $290 million for nursing home care. It's a crime we haven't seen any improvements in staffing!"

"Too many employees never saw any improvements," added Joe Marseille, a CNA at the West Park Alzheimer & Nursing Center (formerly Star of David) in West Roxbury. "What happened to the money? None of the public's money should go for profits until conditions improve."

"Far too many nursing home workers -- especially those without a union -- are paid below living wages," said Monique Severe, a 14-year CNA at Coolidge House Nursing Care in Brookline. "Yearly salaries are often below $20,000. It's just not enough to live on. That's why so many people have a second or even a third job. When that happens, the quality of care suffers."

"We need affordable health insurance," testified Jean Alfred Sandaire from Courtyard Nursing Care in Medford. "We've fought hard to maintain the company's contribution for the individual plan at 100 percent. But they only pay 55 percent of the family plan, which leaves us paying about $100 a week. Most of us just can't afford it."

"For many nursing home workers, winning improved pensions could mean the difference between living in poverty or retiring with dignity," said Lucille Coble, a 30-year CNA at the Mercy Care Center in Springfield. "I've spent most of my life caring for the elderly, I should be able to enjoy my elderly years too!"

"The nursing home industry has received record funding increases from the state. But these workers' stories reveal the continuation of poverty wages, short staffing and the lack of respect and dignity afforded to the people who care for the sick and the elderly," said Celia Wcislo, President of SEIU Local 2020. "Something must be done to hold the nursing home industry accountable."

"That's why our members are reaching out to community-based organizations to build support for improvements in the quality of care for nursing home residents. To achieve that will require significant gains in wages and working conditions are needed for the people who provide care," Wcislo added.

Members of the Jobs with Justice Workers' Rights Board who heard the workers' testimony were: Sarah Wunsch, Staff Attorney of the ACLU of Massachusetts; Isaac Ben Ezra, President of Mass Senior Action; Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Alliance (MIRA); Horace Small, Executive Director of the Union of Minority Neighborhoods; Reverend Eugene Adams, Minister Emeritus, Unitarian Universalist of Medford; and Guillermo Quinteros, Executive Director of the Commonwealth Coalition.

The hearing is part of a statewide campaign to support thousands of nursing home workers who are seeking agreements that will provide living wages, affordable health insurance, secure retirement, and dignity and respect for all employees. The workers are united in SEIU Local 2020.

In addition to Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, the campaign is backed by many community, health advocacy, religious, and senior organizations, including: Health Care For All, Haitian American Public Health Initiative, Massachusetts Senior Action and the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization.

For more information about the campaign contact SEIU Local 2020 at (877) 409-2020.
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