The working conditions in so many nursing homes are horrific. Short-staffing causing burn-out. Lack of PPE causing unsafe circumstances. Now, many caregivers want protection and support. These frontline heroes certainly deserve it.
These brave caregivers are going on strike at 11 nursing homes run by Infinity Healthcare Management. SEIU Healthcare rallied and marched in downtown Chicago recently. All 11 of the Infinity facilities had staffing coverage that was “below” or “much below” the national average during the four quarters leading up to the pandemic.
The caregivers demand a reasonable minimum hourly pay for certified nursing assistants to $15.50 and for other workers to $15.
SEIU Healthcare reached a contract in May with 100 other nursing homes in Illinois. That deal raised base pay for workers, set up hazard bonuses during the pandemic, and expanded sick-leave benefits during the crisis.
Becky Steele is a CNA who makes $12.20 an hour. She has worked at Parker Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for over 11 years. She said:
“We just want the same thing that all other nursing homes have gotten.”
Apart from wages, the union says it is demanding $2 per hour in hazard pay for at least 90 days and adequate personal-protective equipment.
Infinity Healthcare Management
Infinity is a regional chain. Moishe Gubin and Michael Blisko are the chain’s main owners. Gubin and Blisko own, manage, and control dozens of nursing homes in eight states through Infinity and Strawberry Fields. They also siphon funds to related companies ranging from pharmaceuticals to hospice care.
“This is not a mom-and-pop operation,” said Shaba Andrich, the union’s vice president of nursing homes.
The for-profit company has failed to keep residents or caregivers safe during the pandemic. A WBEZ investigation found that Infinity had higher COVID infection and death rates among Illinois nursing homes.
Andrich said COVID has killed several Infinity employees:
“Workers are really putting their lives on the line. It’s unacceptable to use [Medicaid funds] and then pay them minimum wage.”
I hope they stay on strike until they get what they need to meet the needs of the residents safely.