Striking nursing-home workers claim victory

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Union cheers ‘significant gains in base wages, pandemic pay, sick days, and PPE’

SEIU Healthcare Illinois workers cheer a new agreement reached with Infinity late Friday: 99 percent of union members voted to ratify over the weekend. (Facebook)

SEIU Healthcare Illinois workers cheer a new agreement reached with Infinity late Friday: 99 percent of union members voted to ratify over the weekend. (Facebook)

By Ted Cox

Union workers at nursing homes across northern Illinois claimed victory Friday in ending their 12-day strike against Infinity Healthcare Management.

The Service Employees International Union touted a pact reached late Friday on behalf of more than 800 essential workers with its Healthcare Illinois at Infinity’s 11 nursing homes across northern Illinois. They’d been on strike since before the Thanksgiving holiday.

The union cited “significant gains in base wages, pandemic pay, sick days, and personal-protective-equipment provisions.” It said the pact would also “raise standards for Certified Nursing Assistant pay across all 11 Infinity Healthcare facilities, which in turn will help improve staffing levels and the level of resident care.”

It was ratified Sunday with approval from 99 percent of voting members, according to union officials.

“This contract is about more than base wages and pandemic pay — though it’s absolutely crucial that frontline caregivers make enough to support their own families and are compensated for risking their lives during this pandemic,” said Greg Kelley, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois. “It’s about lifting up the standard of care at Infinity facilities and across the state, because workers deserve better and residents deserve better. And because workers stood up and made the brave decision to go on strike, both workers and residents have won.”

That was a frequent theme of the strike, as the union held a news conference featuring Infinity residents only the day before the agreement was reached, with one resident urging, “Pay the people!” while another insisted the walkout was “about us, making it better for us.”

The day before that, last Wednesday, SEIU called in some heavy hitters for support, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Father Michael Pfleger outside the Lakeview Rehabilitation & Nursing Center in Chicago.

“I’ve been at Lakeview Nursing and Rehab for 15 years even though I could easily earn a lot more at another facility,” said CNA Rosalind Reggans after the pact was announced. “I’ve stayed because I love my residents, but I don’t love working short staffed and worrying about whether my residents are getting all the care they deserve. With this new contract, we won’t have people leaving for other facilities because they can’t afford to work here — and that means higher-quality care for my residents.”

The union also praised Gov. Pritzker and other elected officials for their support during the strike.

SEIU specifically cited that the deal included: “All workers will immediately receive significant wage increases — a minimum of $1 an hour, with an average increase of over $2 an hour. Workers will receive additional wage increases” in the second and third years of the 2.5-year contract, as well as:

  • Pandemic pay will increase from $2 to $2.50 an hour and is now secured for all workers who work in areas that either have verified cases of COVID-19 or areas with residents under observation for COVID for as long as COVID-19 is present in a facility.

  • Workers will gain an additional 5 days of COVID-19-related sick time.

  • Workers won significant PPE guarantees and protections.

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December 7, 2020 at 10:02AM

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