ITHACA, NY (WSKG)—Workers from Cayuga Nursing and Rehabilitation Center gathered in front of the nursing home in Ithaca on Tuesday to rally against what they called an unfair contract.
The workers, represented by 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, said the contract the nursing home has offered includes cuts to their health insurance benefits, overtime, and pensions.
Union organizer Emmanuel White said Cayuga healthcare workers have been short-staffed and without a contract since May. White said the nursing home should pay better wages and maintain health benefits, especially during the pandemic.
“Our very important caregivers, our essential caregivers, you called them heroes a year ago,” said White. “And now you’re expecting them to take cuts to their vital benefits.”
Darrell Pokorney, a licensed practical nurse, said the nursing home is probably operating at 25 to 30 percent of its overall staff at this point.
“It’s really hard for these people to make the decision to come back here and help the elderly when they’re providing for their families and can go elsewhere,” said Pokorney, who has worked at Cayuga on-and-off for 20 years.
Nicole Murray, a certified nursing assistant, has been at the facility for 24 years.
Murray said the nursing home lost staff during the pandemic, but she and others stayed because of the residents. She said the workers are asking for a fair contract.
“You know, we’re not asking for them to make us millionaires,” said Murray. “But you know, to treat us like we deserve to be treated.”
In a statement, Cayuga Nursing and Rehabilitation Center management said they do want to increase wages, but in return the union should concede certain clauses, “so that the residents can be cared for with the utmost attention.”
The workers have said they will not make concessions on the contract. Tentatively, they will be back at the bargaining table on September 29th.