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Nursing home caregivers rally at State House for safe staffing and fair pay

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We have been fighting for safe staffing in our nursing homes for over a year, both through contract negotiations and supporting the Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act,” said Adelina Ramos, a CNA at Greenville Center, “But instead of ending the staffing crisis, both our employer and legislators just continue stalling – we can’t wait another year for the results of a pointless study, we need change now.


As flags throughout the state flew at half-mast in commemoration of the 1001 Rhode Islanders who have succumbed to the COVID-19 pandemic, SEIU lead organizer Adanjesus Marin led nursing home caregivers from the north side of the Rhode Island State House to the parking lot entrance of. The nursing home workers were attempting to enter the building so that they might express their concerns to the House Finance Committee, about safe staffing and adequate pay. The caregivers, called heroes by our elected leaders, were stopped by Capitol Police from entering the building, and castigated for not moving away from the building fast enough.

The treatment of the nursing home caregivers at the State House played out as a metaphor for their treatment at the hands of House Leadership, specifically Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi, and Minority Leader Blake Filippi, who last week blocked passage of a safe staffing bill without a discussion on the House floor or even a proper vote, in favor of a “study commission” to convene in the spring.

70% of nursing home caregivers are women of color.

Caregivers rallied at the State House to urge passage of the Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act (S2519 / H7624) by the House or to include the bill as part of the budget. If enacted, the bill would establish a minimum standard of 4.1 hours of resident care per day, the federal recommendation for quality care, and would raise wages and provide much-needed training so that Rhode Island could retain a stable, qualified caregiver workforce. The rally comes on the heels of strike announcements from hundreds of workers at five facilities over the past two weeks. Management at those facilities has refused for months to bargain with workers whose contract proposals also include language for safe staffing of 4.1 hours of resident care per day as well as wage boosts and affordable healthcare.

“We have been fighting for safe staffing in our nursing homes for over a year, both through contract negotiations and supporting the Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act,” said Adelina Ramos, a CNA at Greenville Center, “But instead of ending the staffing crisis, both our employer and legislators just continue stalling – we can’t wait another year for the results of a pointless study, we need change now.”


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“The employers and the State have every ability to prevent the strike by doing what is right for all RI nursing residents. Caretakers don’t want to be forced to strike, but the sad truth is no one has a right to demand that they continue to risk their lives while lawmakers and employers refuse to do what’s right,” said Adanjesus Marin. “Either short staffing and poverty wages come to an end or the strike begins August 8th.”

Safe staffing has received broad support from residents and government officials alike. 82% of Rhode Island voters support the 4.1 hour minimum.1 On July 16, the Senate passed the bill unanimously. Meanwhile the House of Representatives has attempted to kick the can down the road, setting up a powerless employer-dominated House study commission which includes no senior advocacy or community organizations. Nursing home residents and health care heroes deserve life saving action, not another “study.”

Yesterday the Health and Human Service Department announced another $5 billion dollar windfall for all nursing homes to address staffing. This is in addition to over $60 million Rhode Island nursing homes received in additional state and federal funding since April 1.2 Nursing homes have the resources to staff better.

“Our job is physically, mentally and emotionally draining. Staffing was a crisis before and is even worse now. I worked on the COVID wing and we had to bag our own residents when they passed away, people we have known and loved for years. It is heartbreaking. They call us heroes but offer us chump change. We deserve better,” said Dawn Auclair, a CNA at Hopkins Manor.

The facts are indisputable. Rhode Island ranks 41st in the nation and last in New England for average amount of daily care received by residents. 81% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths have occurred in long-term care settings. The rally participants message was clear; the time for substantive action is now.

More video from the rally:

Here’s the full video of the march and the attempted entry into the State House: