Employees at 17 nursing homes across metro Detroit will go on strike Aug. 17 over what they say are unfair working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
About 1,600 workers, most from nursing home chains like Villa and Ciena Healthcare, are demanding their employers address staffing shortages, provide adequate personal protective equipment and pay workers a living wage, according to a news release distributed Friday by the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Michigan.
“We’re called essential, but we’re treated like we’re expendable,” Lisa Elliott, a nursing assistant at Regency at St. Clair Shores, said in the release. “We’re calling on nursing home owners to pay us a living wage so we can afford to get health care just like we provide it, and put in place proper safety protocols and guarantee PPE throughout the pandemic.”
The strike follows a July 20 demonstration for Black lives in Detroit where nursing home workers joined fast food workers calling for economic and racial justice in their workplaces and communities.
“It’s no coincidence that nearly 2,000 nursing home workers and residents have died from COVID-19 in Michigan alone. Nursing home owners failed to prepare for this virus before it arrived, and failed to protect us once it was here,” Trece Andrews, a laundry worker at Regency at St. Clair Shores, said in the release.
“I care for my residents like they’re my family. By going on strike, I’m not just fighting on behalf of nursing home workers — I’m fighting for my residents, too.”
Requests for comment from Villa and Cienna Healthcare were not immediately returned Tuesday afternoon.
The coronavirus hit nursing homes hard.
As of Aug. 9, Michigan has reported 3,801 cases of coronavirus — and 21 deaths — among nursing home employees, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. Among nursing home residents, there have been 7,708 cases of coronavirus and 2,022 deaths, the state reported.
A Free Press investigation in April found that there had been hundreds of confirmed coronavirus cases among residents and staff and dozens of deaths linked to nursing homes in Michigan. Since then, the number of cases in nursing homes has soared in metro Detroit.
Attorney General Dana Nessel said last week her office is “ramping up efforts” to enforce requirements for long-term care facilities during the pandemic. This includes canceling communal dining and group activities, implementing disinfection and sanitation regimens, providing personal protective equipment to employees and informing employees of a COVID-19-positive patient.
“My office is prepared to continue our role of enforcing the law as this virus lingers and as Michigan’s most vulnerable populations remain at risk,” Nessel said Thursday in a news release.
Striking workers will draw attention to the racial disparities in nursing homes.
“The overwhelming majority of us are Black, and we are being forced to work through the crisis on poverty wages and without sufficient PPE at a time when Black people are getting sick and dying at higher rates,” Elliott said.
Workers from the following nursing homes plan to strike Aug. 17:
- Regency at Westland
- Willowbrook Manor (Flint)
- The Manor of Farmington Hills
- Regency Heights (Detroit)
- Omni Continuing Care (Detroit)
- Hartford Nursing and Rehabilitation (Detroit)
- Regency at St. Clair Shores
- Regency-Whitmore Lake
- Regency at Taylor
- St. Joseph’s, a Villa Center (Hamtramck)
- Ambassador, a Villa Center (Hamtramck)
- Villa at City Center (Warren)
- Villa at Great Lakes Crossing (Detroit)
- Imperial Nursing and Rehabilitation, a Villa Center (Dearborn Heights)
- Fountain Bleu Health and Rehab (Livonia)
- Four Seasons Rehabilitation and Nursing (Westland)
- Beaconshire Nursing Center (Detroit)
Reach Nushrat Rahman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-348-7558. Follow her on Twitter: @NushratR