Update: Workers at two financially struggling care facilities in Albany County say they are delaying a strike. 1199SEIU said Jan. 17 that the prospective buyer of Good Samaritan Nursing Home and Kenwood Manor in Delmar has requested an extension in bankruptcy court and will bargain with the union. The Lutheran Care Network is in the process of declaring bankruptcy and selling the facilities. Fearing the loss of wages and benefits, workers had planned a three-day strike starting January 24. About sixty union members work at the facilities.
With wages and benefits at stake, employees at a nursing home in Albany County have voted to hold a three-day strike.
According to 1199SEIU, Lutheran Care Network, which operates Good Samaritan Nursing Home and Kenwood Manor on Rockefeller Road in Delmar, stopped paying into the employees’ contractually required Health Benefit Fund in early October.
Fears of benefit loss and eventual job loss rippled through the facilities. Lutheran filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on December 12. Bronx-based Centers For Care is poised to purchase and take over the facilities, on the condition that the caregivers' contract be put aside.
Despite the fact that a weekend meeting ended with a decision to call a strike, 1199's executive vice president Greg Speller holds out hope. "We think there's really a pathway to have the new operator come in, respect the priorities of the members, have the members stay and continue to take care of the residents and have this home be really solvent, ah, you know, a great institution moving forward."
Union members and workers assembled on the road outside the facility Monday, where they held a press conference and prayer vigil.
If a strike is carried out, what happens to the residents over its duration? Speller says a standing committee will rush in if need be. "Resident care is our chief priority, so we will be establishing a committee of licensed practical nurses, and certified nursing assistants, who know these residents well, and take care of them if there are any emerging situations, to go in and help. But again, I think we have to ask the longer term question, 'what would happen if the employer got away with taking away these benefits from the caregivers, what would happen to the quality of care for the residents in the home. And we know, we're very certain that it would undermine that care and it would go down.""
1199 member John Makoyii has been employed at the facility for 18 years. He says he enjoys taking care of his patients and camaraderie with his fellow-workers, but if things take a downturn he may have to look for other options. "It is very stressful to work in healthcare. And these people stay for 10, 16, 15 years. Most of us because of the benefits, we have one the best benefits. That's the main reason why we stay here."
A message left with The Lutheran Care Network was not returned. Centers For Care could not be reached. Speller says a 10-day notice was issued Monday, meaning the strike would start January 24th.