As state lawmakers unveil budget, workers condemn nursing home support staff exclusion from pandemic pay raise, vow to continue fighting for higher pay
Essential workers call on legislature, Governor to honor service with expanded pandemic raises, direct federal relief money to Hero Pay
MICHIGAN – Essential nursing home workers across Michigan today responded to the just-announced state budget deal that, as introduced, excludes thousands of nursing home workers from a pandemic pay raise. State lawmakers enacted a pandemic pay raise of $2.25/hr in March, providing a lifeline to nurses and certified nursing assistants, and have now renewed and increased the raise to $2.35/hr. However, the measure continues to unjustly exclude support workers who feed and clean up after residents, including COVID-19 patients, despite their essential, dangerous work.
“During the worst of the outbreaks in nursing homes, I was working in the COVID unit, risking my life to take care of our residents. It is unfair and unacceptable for the state to ignore the sacrifices and commitment of essential workers like me,” said Nicole Flores, housekeeper at Hoyt Nursing and Rehab Centre in Saginaw and union steward with SEIU Healthcare Michigan. “Every day, support staff like me help keep our residents safe. I clean, disinfect, and sanitize everything from door knobs to trays–every single surface. And when the CNAs and nurses need help, we step up. Because we’re constantly short-staffed, we’re always stepping in to help take care of our residents. Support staff like me are essential and we should be paid like it. We refuse to be left behind. So, we’re going to keep speaking up and fighting for the pay we deserve.”
Nursing home workers across Michigan are calling to be respected, protected, and paid, as the pandemic drags on and the crisis in Michigan’s nursing home worsens. Since the beginning of the pandemic, workers have mobilized and spoken out to send a clear message to lawmakers that every worker in a nursing home is essential to providing care and deserves a raise. They’ve sent letters, made calls and issued emails sharing their experiences and demanding to be heard.
“As this pandemic drags on, this decision to ignore workers’ voices and exclude support staff from this pandemic raise is just throwing fuel on the fire of the staffing crisis in Michigan nursing homes,” said SEIU Healthcare Michigan President Andrea Acevedo. “Half of Michigan nursing home workers—those who work in dietary, laundry, housekeeping, and other support roles—were again left out of this pay raise, despite being some of the most underpaid and poorly staffed in the state. Chronic short-staffing leaves workers running themselves to exhaustion, creating even more burnout and turnover, which in turn hurts residents’ quality of care. The state has a responsibility to ensure quality care for every resident by making sure ALL nursing home workers have safe working conditions with safe staffing and fair pay. We won’t back down, we’ll keep demanding better until our leaders take action.”
Now, with a budget on the table that continues to cut out key frontline staff, workers are ramping up their demands for the next budget session. Lawmakers will have an opportunity to honor the commitment and sacrifice of ALL essential workers with Hero Pay, utilizing American Rescue Plan funds.
“Everyone in our nursing home is an essential, frontline worker including cleaning, kitchen, dietary, and other staff. Without these workers, it would not be possible for us to provide the highest quality of care to our residents,” said Charles Sloan, CNA at Omnicare and member of SEIU Healthcare Michigan. “Together we are a team, and their sacrifice gives me the confidence and reassurance that we can still care for our residents to the fullest despite the challenges. We need more support staff in our building, not fewer, as workers are forced to get by on poverty wages. That’s why we’re demanding that leaders in the legislature and Governor Whitmer create a plan for treating us heroes – those who have kept our economy running – and passing Hero Pay for every essential worker.”
Nursing home workers and residents have been among the hardest hit during the pandemic. But Michigan’s nursing homes were in crisis before COVID-19, with low wages, unsafe working conditions and short staffing that overburdened workers and underserved residents. Essential nursing home workers in all roles have unnecessarily gotten sick and even died from COVID-19 contracted on the job. Now, with the additional trauma of the last year and a half, many skilled workers are leaving nursing homes.
SEIU Michigan represents nearly 30,000 workers across the state in the healthcare industry, the public sector and in property services. Our members provide essential services and care to our community. We believe in the power of joining together on the job to win higher wages and benefits while fighting for a more just society and an economy and democracy that works for all of us – Black, brown, white, Asian Pacific Islander, and Native – not just corporations and the wealthy. We believe that we cannot achieve economic justice without securing racial justice, and vice versa.
SEIU Healthcare Michigan is the largest healthcare union in Michigan, representing over 17,000 workers. Learn more at www.seiuhealthcaremi.org