Labor & Business

Blackstone Valley Community Health Center workers picket for fair contract

“Management needs to think more about us,” said Jessenia Espinal, a Blackstone employee for nine years. “We have families to support, bills to pay, responsibilities – We’re just asking for what is fair.”
Photo for Blackstone Valley Community Health Center workers picket for fair contract

Published on April 26, 2022
By Steve Ahlquist

Healthcare workers at Blackstone Valley Community Health Center (BVCHC) in Central Falls who are members of SEIU 1199NE held an informational picket on Monday to call on their employer to settle a contract that provides fair wages and adequate time off.

BVCHC staff has provided a range of care and services to all who need it, regardless of ability to pay, including prenatal, women’s health, pediatric, adolescent and adult preventative and acute care as well as behavioral health, dental and treatment for diabetes and asthma for thirty yers. Through the pandemic, staff provided critical health services to their patients, including administering thousands of vaccines. Despite the risk to themselves and their families, staff received no hazard pay.

“We run towards danger when most people run away,” said Lenny Cioe, a registered nurse at the Blackstone Valley Community Health Center. “I love my job, but the pay isn’t cutting it.”

“Management doesn’t realize how many people have their foot out the door,” noted Cioe. People making $16 an hour at Blackstone are being offered $23 and $24 an hour at other facilities.

SEIU 1199, the union representing the workers, maintains that management is refusing wage increases for all employees, despite having received nearly $5 million in federal relief funding to invest in recruitment and retention. Additionally, management wants staff to use personal days in the event of a storm and refuses to allow workers a day off to celebrate Juneteenth a holiday celebrating the end of slavery.

“Management needs to think more about us,” said Yesenia Brito, a Blackstone employee for nine years. “We have families to support, bills to pay, responsibilities – We’re just asking for what is fair.”

Elected officials such as Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, Central Falls Mayor Maria Rivera, former Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, State Senators Sandra Cano and Jonathan Acosta, and State Representatives Karen Alzate, Leonela Felix, Rebecca Kislak, and David Morales and Central Falls City Councilmember Tatiana Baena were on hand as well.

Central Falls City Councilmember Tatiana Baena
Lenny Cioè
General Treasurer Seth Magaziner
Representative Karen Alzate
Representative David Morales

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