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Largest Nursing Home Workers’ Strike in U.S. History Planned for This Week in Chicago

“We can no longer choose between caring for your family and our own, and so, we have decided to stand together as part of what will be the largest strike of nursing home workers in the history of our country.” 
            -Services Employees International Union (SEIU) statement on nursing home employee strike

In a move to influence contract negotiations between SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Illinois Association of Healthcare Facilities (who represents 53 Chicago-area nursing homes that use SEIU members for staffing), 5,000 SEIU members are planning to strike. The two main issues at hand are low pay and low staffing numbers, creating an industry of underpaid and over-utilized nursing home employees who feel they must work excessive amounts of overtime in order to maintain a living wage.

According to SEIU, Chicagoland for-profit nursing homes rake in over $1 billion in annual profits, yet pay the current minimum wage ($10.50) to employees such as Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs), housekeeping staff, cooks, and janitors. Adding insult to injury, nursing homes maintain shockingly low staff to resident ratios, allowing one CNA, for example, to care for multiple residents with complex needs at a time. CNAs are responsible for the day-to-day care of residents, which involves (among many other duties) feeding, bathing, and rotating patients to prevent bedsores.

The strike is scheduled to begin on May 4th and will initially involve a walkout in 15 nursing homes, with more to follow on May 5th and 6th and beyond. SEIU currently has a member base that is 10,000 strong, staffing over 100 nursing homes in the Chicago-area.  SEIU is hoping that the strike will send a message that it’s time for nursing homes to understand that the work they do is worth more than minimum wage.