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Unionized Healthcare Workers Reach Contract Deal With Delmar Long-Term Care Facility Owners

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Workers at two financially struggling care facilities in Albany County say they have avoided a strike and reached a deal with the facilities’ prospective owners.

The union representing healthcare workers at Good Samaritan Nursing Home and Kenwood Manor on Rockefeller Road in Delmar says workers are voting Thursday and Friday on a contract with Centers Health Care.

The facilities' owner Lutheran Care Network filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on December 12. It targeted the workers’ collective bargaining agreement as a condition of purchase by Bronx-based Centers Health Care.

Reeling from that news, workers said they faced daily challenges due to short-staffing and a lack of supplies. In mid-January they voted to strike. 1199 SEIU says a few days later Centers Health Care agreed to sit down and negotiate. A tentative agreement was announced Wednesday. 

Robbin Colandria of nearby Averill Park is relieved to hear the workers will keep their benefits.  "We are very excited for a new owner remote. We hope he is open to communication with us as family members. We would like to meet with him, hear what his ideas are and voice our concerns. My parents were both in Good Samaritan three years ago. My father has subsequently passed away. But my mother is still there. The quality of care and the dedication of the staff has always been above the bar. It is always been amazing."

1199 SEIU spokesperson Mindy Berman calls the tentative deals "an enormous victory for the residents and workers and really the entire community."  "The main goal was to save the workers’ health insurance so that we could stop the cycle of  health care workers leaving, which was exacerbating a staff shortage. There's a lot of work to be done. But everybody looks forward to getting a new start and everybody is grateful for the support of the resident families birth. The entire community."

A town meeting that was scheduled for Thursday night at the Bethlehem YMCA was canceled. 1199 SEIU Administrative Organizer Tanya Grant says several issues still need to be addressed… "But I believe the new owners will be willing to make some changes that gives us a basic continue to improve the working conditions here at Good Sam with the contract. You know, we're not starting from ground zero. We don't have to re-establish a whole complete new contract. We have a base keeping the health benefits in the agreement allows the healthcare workers to stay continue to fight to restore the care levels to what it was several years ago. And this is the first step. We still have a long way to go. We still have you know a bit of a battle, but at least having healthcare that's good for the workers. That's the beginning."

Lutheran Care Network's bankruptcy hearing is set for February 25th.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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