Workers at a nonprofit retirement home in Getzville say they have a tentative contract deal that will make them the highest-paid retirement home workers in Western New York, but the sale waiting for their establishment once again delays the contract.
About 200 workers at the Weinberg campus ratified a two-year deal with facility operators on Dec. 15 that includes a 23% increase in wages and a 6% increase in pensions.
It also includes a minimum wage of $16.50 for certified practical nurses and a minimum salary of $24 for licensed practical nurses. This is more than the average overall rate for these positions in the Buffalo-Niagara region, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The deal will make workers at the Weinberg campus the highest-paid unionized nursing home workers in Western New York, according to the workers’ union, 1199 SEIU.
Grace Bogdanove, SEIU Region 1199 Vice President for Nursing Homes, called the deal, as well as other recent contracts obtained by the union“truly historic and normative contracts” for Western New York.
“What we had to fight for and what these workers have been fighting for all year… is to make sure we have wages that compensate workers for their experience and benefits that will attract and retain quality workers in these facilities,” she said. noted
Weinberg CEO Robert Mayer also hopes it will help attract more workers amid a national shortage. Nursing homes nationwide have lost more than 400,000 workersabout 12% of their workforce, since the start of the pandemic in February 2020. The workforce of the Weinberg campus retirement home, Rosa Coplon Jewish Home and Infirmary, is assessed two out of five stars by the federal government, i.e. below average.
“I think the whole job market has changed,” Mayer said. “You can look at retail, food and restaurants – they’re all raising their wages. So we have to do the same.
However, while the workers ratified the agreement almost two weeks ago, it is still not finalized. Indeed, Weinberg is set to be bought by Elderwood, a for-profit nursing home chain, in a $47 million deal that has been pending with the state Department of Health for more than four years.
The terms of the sale specify that Weinberg must obtain Elderwood’s approval for any new collective bargaining agreement. The workers said it brought them only receiving one-year contracts in recent years prior to the current two-year agreement. As of Monday evening, Elderwood had yet to officially approve the contract.
“What’s unique about this situation is that it’s not just Weinberg having a say. It’s the Elderwood company having a say,” Bogdanove said. our members could get paid over the holidays, so we’ll continue to reach out to Elderwood and hopefully we can sort this out before the end of the year.
Elderwood did not return a request for comment originally made last week. Company officials previously told WBFO they had no campus oversight and therefore could not comment on the negotiations.
However, Mayer said he expects Elderwood to eventually approve the contract.
“Because the market is what it is, I don’t see how they’re not going to say OK,” he said.
To complicate matters, even if Elderwood approves the contract now, he could rescind or propose changes to the contract once the state approves the sale and Elderwood takes over the campus.
If Elderwood takes over campus before the contract expires in October 2023 and wants changes, Bogdanove said 1199 SEIU is “ready to fight to keep what it’s won.”
For now, workers are happy with the deal
Darlene Gates, an administrative organizer with 1199 SEIU who helped negotiate the contract, said many workers came to her in disbelief at their new pay.
“They wanted us to repeat it over and over again. ‘Is this my new rate? Is this what I get? Do you know that means I can take care of my family? “, she said. “When you get into home care, you want to take care of residents, you want to take care of people, you’re a caregiver. You don’t want to be stressed and exhausted, so a huge improvement.
Shanta Myles is a homemaker for the Weinberg campus and a single mother of two who said she hadn’t considered the possibility of landlordship before.
“Now I think I’ll feel more comfortable starting the home buying process with this increase,” she said.
Mayer said that while workers deserve the raises after coming through the pandemic, the state must help nursing homes pay for those raises. Nursing homes have long argued that New York’s Medicaid reimbursement rates are too low, resulting in a $55-a-day shortfall between what the state reimburses nursing homes to care for a Medicaid resident and what it actually costs to care for that resident.
Nursing homes have asked Gov. Kathy Hochul for an increase in Medicaid rates and hope that will happen in the next state budget and legislative session beginning next month, Mayer said.
“There is no way to continue to provide appropriate wages and the cost of living is rising without additional Medicaid funding,” he said.
As for the sale of the Weinberg campus, Mayer said he has “no idea” when it will be approved by the state.
Jeffrey Hammond, spokesman for the state Department of Health, said in an email that the construction and renovation applications were submitted along with the change of ownership application. Therefore, Hammond said, “several approvals” and “a number of specific contingencies must be met” in order to complete the sale. Meanwhile, the deal between the Weinberg campus and Elderwood requires a single transaction to close all assets at once.
Editor’s Note: Elderwood supports the WBFO Seniors Information Office.