On Thursday, July 24, state representatives, city council members and other elected representatives joined low-wage workers, faith leaders, academics and community advocates at a Town Hall meeting focused on raising the minimum wage.
As the rallying cry for raising the minimum wage increases both in Indiana and around the country, low-wage workers and supporters spoke out about the harsh reality of living on just $7.25 an hour. During the town hall, elected officials were asked to participate in a Walk-a-Day, spending a full day walking in the shoes of a minimum wage worker to experience what it’s like to attempt to survive on $7.25 an hour.
“The truth is that families can’t survive on $7.25,” said Carolyn Lazzell, a Brownstown, Indiana home care worker and SEIU Healthcare Indiana member who facilitated the town hall. “If you make minimum wage, you have to depend on public assistance or go without food, shelter or some other basic necessity. You can’t meet your needs at $7.25. It just doesn’t add up.”
Participants asked lawmakers to make four commitments coming out of the town hall and all five officials in attendance agreed:
1. Getting the word out to constituents about why they support raising the minimum wage.
2. Sending a letter to colleagues encouraging them to support an increase to the minimum wage too.
3. Walk a Day in the shoes of a low-wage worker.
4. Take the ‘Live the Wage Challenge’ – a challenge to live on $77 between July 24-30. $77 represents the weekly wages of a full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage, minus average taxes and housing expenses. The $77 budget includes all meals, groceries, transportation, and recreational spending.
Community members in attendance also signed on to a commitment letter to take the ‘Live the Wage Challenge.’
Indiana members say they are committed to this fight and will continue to hold lawmakers accountable to their promises, and educate communities across the Hoosier state to garner more support. Similar efforts are underway in both Illinois and Missouri to raise the minimum wage, with SEIU members leading the charge!
CNAs, CNTs, housekeeping, and dietary staff at Northview Village held a picket recently to highlight their fight for affordable healthcare and to call out management for unfair labor practice violations, including intimidation for union support.
Negotiations at the facility have been ongoing for 3-4 months, and workers have made it clear that a primary goal is to try and reduce turnover at the facility so residents have a steady, reliable workforce.
Management is insisting on downgrading workers’ health insurance to a plan that is non-ACA compliant and is about a third of the actual value of the current health insurance plan for workers.
“I work hard every day to ensure our residents get the care they need,” said Anthony Sloan, a CNA at Northview. “Management refuses to recognize that though, and are trying to make it harder for us to see doctors and get healthcare when we’re sick. If management has their way, residents and workers will suffer.”
Workers at Northview Village say they will continue standing up for quality care for residents and quality jobs for those who keep the nursing home going.
“Front line healthcare workers serving our seniors and people with disabilities need access to quality, affordable healthcare when we get sick, so we can get the care we need and return to our residents who rely on us each day,” explained Karen Johson, another CNA at Northview. “We’re not going to just roll over, this issue impacts workers and our residents.”
Over 80 workers and community allies led a march and handed out flyers to passersby encouraging them to call the Northview administrator and urge them to stop the intimidation of workers and to settle a fair contract with affordable healthcare and fair raises for the workforce.
Employees at Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) Affiliated, Research & Menorah Medical Centers in Kansas City & Overland Park Join Fight for Better Wages, Better Jobs
On Saturday, July 19, Research and Menorah employees gathered to talk with elected officials and community leaders about why good paying jobs matter in the field of healthcare. Support from electeds and the community was overwhelming in the standing room only event. Workers shared stories wit the crowd and then on video in a “Story Booth”, so their message can be memorialized and used to educate and involve others in their fight for better jobs and quality care.
Research Medical Center had a net income of $4.7 million dollars in 2012, an 18% increase in revenue in 5 years1, and Menorah Medical Center had a net income of $19.99 million, (representing an astounding 10% profit margin) in 20131. Despite the healthy financial situation, many employees struggle to survive on less than $10 an hour. Higher paid certified and registered professional employees leave Research and Menorah for more lucrative paying jobs in their fields at other area hospitals. This has resulted in an average turnover rate of 45%2 since 2011.
“At the end of the day, if hospitals don’t pay wages that provide employees some stability, and recognize education and skill, employees leave. There needs to be continuity of care and a stable work force if we are going to provide the highest quality of care that our patients deserve,” says Renita Pierro an OR Tech at Menorah Medical Center, and married mother of young children who struggles to afford the health insurance offered at the hospital on her rate of pay.
Beside low hourly wages and non competitive salaries, employees complain about the cost of health insurance through the hospitals. Janet Highfill, a Respiratory Therapist at Menorah Medical Center says, “Last year when I did my taxes, I calculated that I paid over $8,000 in premiums and co pays, and I’m a healthy person. That directly impacts my take home pay, and causes many of my coworkers to look for employment elsewhere, leaving us feeling like we are always scrambling to keep staff. If staffing levels drop, it is more likely that patients will wait, and that is not what our healthcare system should be about.”
Corita Brown, who prepares food in the dietary department at Research Medical Center, is thankful she doesn’t have to provide healthcare for her family on her salary. Corita says, “In thirty-five years with the hospital, I am making about the same wage rate as newer employees, and I’ve seen everything go up including the cost of healthcare premiums and gas to get to work, but not my wages. Research has started hiring employees who are categorized as ‘per diem’, or ‘as-needed’, and employees are frequently sent home early to meet cost and productivity quotas, leaving workers short on pay day. This concerns me when I see so many people who need and are willing to work full time jobs.”
“We came into these jobs because we care about people, and we care about our communities’ health. I want to stay at Research, but ultimately I have to figure out what’s best for my family. Paying child care, and what I consider extremely expensive healthcare premiums when I work at a hospital, makes it very difficult to keep turning down better pay at other hospitals. It’s a hard choice, when you care about your patients and want to continue doing what you love,” states Jessica Locker, Nuclear Med Tech at Research.
This week workers are meeting to conduct a strike vote – a method of last resort that many feel is the only option left to get across the importance of retention of skilled, experienced employees for high quality patient care.
On Monday, June 30, hundreds of home care LPNs and RNs on the South Side of Chicago won their union and became the newest members SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana. Licensed Practical Nurses and Registered Nurses at MCC, and Licensed Practical Nurses at HealthForce stood strong through an intense anti-union campaign from management.
These nurses serve medically fragile and technologically dependent children that receive care through Medicaid funding. Improving the quality of care for those who depend on home services and improving jobs are top priorities for these skilled caregivers.
“As a healthcare professional, I believe that nurses deserve to be respected for the hard work we do, and that means making enough money to support ourselves and our families,” said Lynette Shenault, a LPN at HealthForce. “Forming our union together will give us the voice we need to advocate for better jobs for skilled caregivers, and most importantly, better care and services for our patients.”
Skilled home health nurses are forming an industry-wide network across several agencies throughout Chicago’s southern communities, and are ready to move forward and bargain their first contract.
Welcome and congratulations to our newest members at MCC and HealthForce!
Management at the South Side YMCA was taken by surprise last Saturday when a spirited crowd of early educators, parents, and community supporters rallied and marched for fair wages and affordable healthcare at the YMCA of Metro Chicago!
“As teachers, we’re entrusted with the care and education of the children in this community, so what we do in a day matters,” said teacher Kim Cotton, addressing WGN reporter Sean Lewis. The report played on the evening news, cranking up the heat on management and tying the workers’ contract fight to the ongoing Fight for Fifteen movement that strives to win fair wages for ALL workers.
The YMCA refused to face the cameras, but a spokeswoman stated that the Y would “work to secure a contract that protects [the workers’] interests and the overall interests of the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago.”
We’ll see whose interests the Y really cares about when these fired-up educators go back to the bargaining table on July 9th. They’ll face management with a significant new victory under their belts. When workers stick together, workers win!
See our coverage from WGN and additional video testimony below.