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Elected officials and community groups out in support of ready to strike nursing home workers



The people who provide nursing care are engaged in holy work. But you would not know that by the way nursing home workers are treated in Rhode Island; they are overworked, underpaid, deprived of access to care for their own health and denied access to training to lift themselves up.

From a press release:

Rhode Island legislators and community organizations held a Zoom press conference on Thursday to show their support for nursing home workers’ plans to strike at five different facilities – Charlesgate Nursing Center, Bannister House, Genesis Pawtucket Nursing Center, Hopkins Manor, and Genesis Greenville – on Wednesday August 5th to demand change to the industry’s deadly status quo.

“I was proud to fight with nursing home heroes to pass the bill for better staffing and a living wage for workers through the Senate, said Senator Maryellen Goodwin (Democrat, District 1, Providence). “I support these nursing home workers who are willing to go on strike to improve the lives of the residents they care for every day and their co-workers.”

Senator Goodwin, Representative Scott Slater (Democrat, District 10, Providence), Senator Sandra Cano (Democrat, District 8, Pawtucket) and Representative Anastasia Williams (Democrat, District 9, Providence) were joined by other State Representatives and Senators to voice support for workers’ plans to strike for safer working conditions and higher job standards. In addition, Rhode Island Organizing Project, RAMP (Real Access Motivates Progress), Sista Fire, Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to End Poverty and the RI AFL-CIO joined today’s press conference to endorse caregivers’ efforts to end the staffing crisis.

“I want to thank the nursing home workers who are willing to lay it all on the line by striking to give residents better staffing,” said Representative Scott Slater. “The world has finally acknowledged nursing home caregivers for the heroes they are, now we should treat them like heroes.”

After submitting contract proposals over one year ago that would create safe staffing standards of 4.1 direct-care hours, wage boosts, affordable healthcare and training opportunities, hundreds of caregivers have not made progress with management at the bargaining table despite risking personal safety for months throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Rhode Rhode Island’s existing staffing crisis was merely exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, with the state currently ranking 41st in the country, and last in New England, for the average number of hours nursing home residents receive. Workers’ strike announcement follows informational pickets that took place at six different nursing home facilities on Thursday, July 16.

“I think we can do better, I think we must do better,” said Marjorie Waters of the Rhode Island Organizing Project. “RIOP supports the caregivers that are ready to strike next week as they fight for safe staffing, a living wage, and dignity and respect for themselves and their patients.”

“For months nursing home caregivers have been hailed heroes while being denied the tools to keep themselves, their families and their residents safe throughout the COVID-19 crisis. We are lifted by the support of key lawmakers and community organizations who recognize that nursing home heroes need more than encouraging words, they urgently need a 4.1 hour staffing minimum, decent wages, affordable healthcare benefits and are prepared to strike to end the lethal status quo,” said said Adanjesus Marin, Lead Organizer for SEIU 1199NE.

81% of COVID-19 deaths in Rhode Island were in nursing homes, one of the highest rates in the nation. In the first two months of the virus alone, 2,000 residents and 700 workers in RI nursing homes contracted COVID-19. Nursing homes in Rhode Island have received around $60 million dollars in additional funding from government sources since April.1

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“The people who provide nursing care are engaged in holy work. But you would not know that by the way nursing home workers are treated in Rhode Island; they are overworked, underpaid, deprived of access to care for their own health and denied access to training to lift themselves up. This is why they are striking for fair wages, so that you don’t have to be poor to do the most important job in the world. This is why they are striking for affordable healthcare, so you don’t have to give up your own health in order to nurse other people back to health,” said Rabbi Jeff Goldwasser, Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to End Poverty.

Senator Sandra Cano:

George Nee of the AFL-CIO:

Ditra Edwards, co-founder and director of SISTA Fire:

Community Allies who participated on call:

Rhode Island Organizing Project, SISTA Fire, Economic Progress Institute, Womens Fund RI, RI AFL-CIO, Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to End Poverty, Newport Partnership for Families, RAMP (Real Access Motivates Progress)

1 1) April 4 []: 10% Increase to Nursing Home Medicaid Fee for Service Medicaid Rate through the second Federal Stimulus.

2) May 2: (extended on June 4): $13.6 million in state funding for the Workforce Stabilization Program to cover increased wages.

3) May 22: [] the U.S. Health and Human services announces a $4.9 billion funding stimulus to nursing homes. This equals almost $26 million for Rhode Island nursing homes ($2,500 per nursing home bed plus $50,000 per facility). This amount reflects twice the increase the nursing home industry seeks each legislative session through a fully funded nursing home COLA or nursing home inflationary index.

4) July 10: [] The Nursing Facility Supports Grant Program will distribute a total of up to $7 million in funding across nursing facilities in Rhode Island based on the number of licensed public pay beds in each facility.

About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.