SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania’s longest nurses strike comes to an end

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Local nurses are back on the job, after staff reached an agreement over the weekend with Comprehensive Healthcare, Priority Healthcare and Shenandoah Heights Healthcare, the SEIU Healthcare announced Monday.

SEIU Healthcare reached a tentative agreement with Comprehensive and Priority Healthcare late last week, and staff paused strikes across the state Friday while final contract negotiations took place.

The nurses’ union announced the contract agreement early Monday morning.

“These workers have been relentless advocates for their residents, providing care through conditions most of us cannot even imagine,” Matthew Yarnell, president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, said in a news release. “There’s a national trend towards for-profit nursing home operators using tax dollars to fulfill the demands of their investors. This strike was about forcing nursing home operators to invest in our work and care for Pennsylvania’s residents. We stand against that for-profit model of how we care for nursing home residents.”

While agreements differ between each of the three companies and their employees, each new contract includes better wages, improved staffing and better health insurance.

Agreements include an average wage raise of 24% across all three contracts, according to SEIU Healthcare, with longevity increases to retain the workforce.

Contracts also include health insurance adjustments with more in-network providers, and a commitment to state staffing regulations.

On Sept. 2, nearly 700 nursing home employees from 14 facilities statewide, including The Grove at Washington, walked off the job, after SEIU Healthcare failed to reach contract agreements with either Comprehensive or Priority after months of negotiations. At little more than one week, it marked the longest strike in the nurses’ union history.

“(Residents) don’t get the quality of care that they deserve and they pay for,” Shellie Lawrence, vice president of the local union and a member of the bargaining committee, told the Observer-Reporter on day one of the nurses strike. “We’re here to get better staffing.”

Lawrence also advocated for the better wages granted in the new contract between Comprehensive and The Grove.

“You shouldn’t have to have a second income, another job, to provide for your family,” Lawrence said.

Staff arrived to the picket lines every day for more than a week to fight for better staffing, better wages and better health care. Striking staff also marched in the Pittsburgh Labor Day parade to draw awareness to what they considered unfair labor practices.

When the contract agreements were announced, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania’s Twitter exploded in congratulations.

State legislators, including state Rep. Dan Frankel, who serves areas in Allegheny County, took to Twitter to congratulate the union on reaching a contract agreement. Nursing home staff, family members, friends and supporters proclaimed victory across social media.

While SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania celebrated a new, fair contract, the union vocalized support for striking nurses in the Midwest.

“Pennsylvania nursing home workers just won new contracts, but that doesn’t mean healthcare worker strikes are over,” SEIU Healthcare PA tweeted Monday. “Time to pony up for Minnesota Nurses who are on strike now for patient care!”


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