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Caregivers Hold Unfair Labor Practice Strike to Improve Quality of Resident Care at Statewide Nursing Home Chain

Wednesday, September 24, 2008 General News J E 4
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FREMONT, Calif., Sept. 24 More than 700 healthcare workersbegan a two-day unfair labor practice strike Wednesday morning to protestWindsor Healthcare Management's refusal to negotiate issues affecting thedelivery of patient care to hundreds of sick and elderly in Bay Area nursinghomes. Windsor has responded by informing workers that they will lock themout from returning to work.

Caregivers are trying to negotiate improvements in the quality of care forresidents and Windsor refuses to discuss them despite its poor track record ofcare. In addition, nursing home workers are seeking to gain affordable healthinsurance, job security and wages that allow caregivers to live in thecommunity they work in. Windsor has refused to negotiate over these issues andon wages has made proposals that do not keep up with the high cost of living.

The unfair labor strike is being held simultaneously at 8 nursing homeslocated in Concord, Fremont, Hayward, Monterey, and Salinas. All of thefacilities are owned and operated by Windsor Healthcare, a statewide,multi-million dollar nursing home chain.

"We gave Windsor every opportunity to avoid a strike, but managementrefuses to discuss serious issues affecting the care and treatment of ourresidents," said Eleanor Smithey, a Certified Nursing Assistant at WindsorRidge Care & Rehabilitation Center in Salinas. "As caregivers, we want anofficial voice in the delivery of patient care; so that we can act asworkplace advocates and help ensure the best possible care for the mostvulnerable members of our community. Unfortunately, Windsor isn't listeningto our concerns."

Windsor has rejected frontline caregivers' proposals to help ensurequality patient care, refused to bargain in good faith, and continued tocommit unfair labor practices. This forced the nursing home workers to callfor the two-day strike in order to protect their residents.

Despite the workers dedication and best efforts, management has not agreedto adopt reasonable caregiver standards in place at other nursing homecompanies in the Bay Area. Workers believe by adopting these provenstandards, Windsor could help reverse their poor patient care track record.

Since March 2007, more than 500 violations of health and safetyregulations were documented at Windsor facilities during regular federalsurveys; spread across Windsor's 28 nursing homes, this is almost twice thenational average. In addition, last year, 58 patient complaints againstWindsor were verified by the State Department of Health on issues ranging fromshort-staffing to fire hazards.

"Windsor has a moral obligation to provide the best possible treatment tothe sick and elderly," said Rabbi Jane Litman, co-chair of the East BayInterfaith Committee for Worker Justice and rabbi at Congregation Kolot Mayim."Religious and community leaders throughout California stand with Windsorcaregivers in their effort to improve patient care and reduce heavy workloads.Windsor should prioritize resident care above their profit margins."

To address these conditions, more than 700 nursing home workers --represented by SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West -- have been in contractnegotiations with Windsor for more than a year in four facilities and severalmonths at four others. Workers have made proposals to help improve residentcare by raising staffing levels and increasing Windsor's ability to recruitand retain the most qualified caregivers. However, Windsor refuses to adoptthe caregivers' common sense solutions.

The negotiations are part of UHW's historic 2008 campaign, in which morethan 100,000 healthcare workers throughout California will negotiate newcontracts. Healthcare workers at more than 100 nursing homes and over 50hospitals are seeking new agreements in what may be the largest-evercoordinated bargaining effort in the healthcare industry.

With more than
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