This state is facing the possibility of a major nursing home strike, with workers at 33 facilities overwhelmingly favoring a strike, and voting at 11 more homes set to begin shortly after May 1.
Matthew Barrett, president and CEO of Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, said as many as 30 percent of all nursing home residents in the state could be affected if a strike happens.
However, it must be noted that a union vote to authorize a strike will not necessarily lead to a strike. No official strike notice has yet been delivered, and we hope — for the good of the patients and their families, as well as the workers — that a strike can be avoided.
That said, union members at 51 nursing homes across Connecticut — the people who risk their health to provide essential personal care to those who are least able to help themselves — are working under contracts that have already expired.
Rob Baril, president of SEIU District 1199 New England — which represents about 5,000 nursing home workers in the state — told The Connecticut Mirror that his members “have been stretched beyond their breaking points” by the health and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
But this is not really a classic “union vs. management” situation. The nursing homes, too, have been hard hit by the extra expenses of operating during the pandemic. In effect, this can be seen as union and management vs. the State of Connecticut.
The union says that Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposed budget doesn't include sufficient funds for nursing home care, and notes that 22 union members have died from the coronavirus, and many others have gotten sick.
The Lamont administration has told nursing homes that another round of federal pandemic relief would be used to provide a 5 percent rate increase for the months of April through June, but the industry says that’s not nearly enough.
Barbara Cass, with the Connecticut Department of Public Health, said “active planning” is already underway to ensure patient care is maintained in the case of a strike.
But that’s the minimum we could expect, under the circumstances. The state has come out of the shutdown year in better financial shape than might have been expected, thanks in no small part to millions of dollars in aid from the federal government.
Let the governor and the General Assembly find ways to bring some of that benefit to these front-line workers. There is still time to avert a strike.