Nursing home workers may go on strike and demand more pay, PPE

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CHICAGO — Nursing home workers at 11 Infinity-owned nursing homes may go on strike.

Workers said they need a raise and more PPE to protect themselves from COVID-19.

On Wednesday, workers said the virus is not a joke. They said they put their lives in danger every single day they step foot in a nursing home. If they don’t get more money or protective equipment in just five days, they will go on strike.

“They need to pay us and get us this PPE so we can live right and take care of our loved ones and not have to worry about going home and taking this stuff to our families,” one of the workers, who did not give their name, said.

In front of Southpoint Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on 95th Street, some workers were speaking out like their lives depended on it. They represent 11 different nursing homes own by Infinity. Some claimed there isn’t an effective plan in place to manage patients who test positive for COVID-19.

“We are not being told who or what, but we know people have it,” Jackie Abu, who has worked with South Point Nursing Home for six years, said. “We’re not getting the proper pay. We have to wear one mask the whole day. Then they tell us in the room to put on a gown. We change the gown basically we don’t have supplies. How can we change our mask and gown if we don’t have supplies for us?”

The workers said wages are low and they have to buy their own masks. 

“We work and are underpaid. I work at $15 an hour and I’ve been here for 17 years,” one woman said. “It’s not right. I’ve got to struggle to get on a budget to pay my bills because of that I won’t have any life. I can’t see my grandkids. It’s been over a year since I’ve seen my grandkids and it hurts not to see my grandkids.”

The union for these workers, Service Employees International Union Heathcare, planned Wednesday’s demonstration to state their demands.

Shaba Andrich, vice president of the nursing home division with SEIU Healthcare, said the union has been in negations with infinity since June. The contract is expired, and the workers need a contract that will address their concerns.

“When it comes to PPE the workers often not have adequate PPE and they need to make sure we get adequate PPE especially now during the pandemic,” Andrich said.

WGN reached out to Infinity but no one was available for comment.

According to experts, 40% percent of all COVID-19 deaths involve nursing home patients. 

The workers said they hope they won’t be part of that statistic.

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