Coronavirus Illinois: Thousands of nursing home workers set strike date for May 8

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Thousands of nursing home workers in Illinois who are concerned about their safety on the job say they will go on strike on May 8.

Nursing homes have been a glaring hotspot for COVID-19 outbreaks around the state. Now 4,000 employees who staff them around the clock say they're ready to walk out.

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A handful of nursing home workers protested Monday outside the Alden Wentworth long-term care facility. They're ready to strike for higher wages, hazard pay, more access to PPE and not to be treated punitively if they get sick. Most of these people on the frontlines of the COVID-19 make between minimum wage and $14 per hour.

"They're the ones that make the food, wash the clothes, clean their rooms, help them get out of bed, take showers, and even eat," said Shaba Andrich, SEIU.

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LaTonya Grays has worked at the facility for several years. She said inadequate PPE is putting her family at risk - and a demand for time and half for hazard pay is not unreasonable.

"We are deserving for $10 an hour for hazard pay, not more for some and less for others," Grays said.

Tanika Sommerville is a certified nursing assistant with 20 years' experience. She says she was fired recently for voicing too many concerns about her work conditions.

"I got fired for asking for - over and over again - for the proper PPE gear, an open line of communication which requires the truth, more staffing because we were short-staffed, and hazards pay," Sommerville said.

The SEIU-represented workers set to strike comprise employees at 40 long-term facilities across Illinois. But the union says there are at least 100 facilities with similar workplace concerns.

Under COVID-19 guidelines put out by the Illinois Department of Public Health, nursing home employers are told to be: "non-punitive" with sick staff, offer temperature checks at the beginning and mid-shift, ensure PPE and decrease staff rotation for those dealing with sick patients.

The workers said they are dedicated to their patients, but they need to take care of themselves as well.

The Illinois Association of Health Care Facilities responded to the strike threat in a written statement: "It is extremely troubling that SEIU union leadership would ask frontline nursing home employees to abandon elderly and infirm residents during a pandemic and our residents' greatest hour of need. A substantial 11% pay raise will bring the vast majority of our union workers above $15 an hour, but SEIU instead wants to use a crisis as a negotiating tactic. Directing our heroic nursing assistants, dietary, activity, laundry and housekeeping employees to walk out now is unthinkable, and IAHCF urges the union to come to the table and negotiate in good faith."

The SEIU said the soonest workers would walk out would be May 8, a week from Friday. The union represents employees at 40 nursing homes, but said they have complaints about at least 100 facilities.

The SEIU said strike notices for May 8th were delivered at the following nursing homes:

Alden Debes Manor
550 S MULFORD AVE
Rockford

Alden Lakeland
820 W LAWRENCE
Chicago

Alden Princeton
255 W 69 ST
Chicago

Alden-Des Plaines
1221 E GOLF RD
Des Plaines

Alden-Estates of Barrington
1420 S BARRINGTON RD
Barrington

Alden-Lincoln Park
504 W WELLINGTON AVE
Chicago

Alden-Town Manor
6120 W Ogden
Cicero

Alden-Village North
7464 N SHERIDAN RD
Chicago

Alden-Waterford
2021 RANDI DR
Aurora

Alden-Wentworth
201 W 69 ST
Chicago

Aperion Care Capitol
555 W CARPENTER RD
Springfield

Aperion Care Dolton
14325 S BLACKSTONE
Dolton

Aperion Care Galesburg
1145 FRANK ST
Galesburg

Aperion Care Highwood
50 PLEASANT AVE
Highwood

Aperion Care Jacksonville
1021 N CHURCH ST
Jacksonville

Aperion Care Midlothian
3249 W 147 ST
Midlothian

Aperion West Ridge/ Ridgeview
6450 N RIDGE BLVD
Chicago

Astoria
6300 N CALIFORNIA AVE
Chicago

Austin Oasis
901 S AUSTIN BLVD
Chicago

Avantara Evergreen Park
10124 S KEDZIE
Evergreen Park

Balmoral
2055 W BALMORAL AVE
Chicago

Berkeley
6909 W NORTH AVE
Oak Park

Bridgeview Healthcare Center
8100 S HARLEM AVE
Bridgeview

Carlton At The Lake
725 W MONTROSE AVE
Chicago

Chalet Living & Rehab
7350 N SHERIDAN RD
Chicago

Elevate Care Irving Park

4340 N KEYSTONE AVE
Chicago

Hickory Nursing Pavilion
9246 S ROBERTS RD
Hickory Hills

Lake Front Healthcare Center
7618 N SHERIDAN RD
Chicago

Mayfield Care Center
5905 W WASHINGTON
Chicago

Oak Park Oasis
625 N Harlem Ave
Oak Park

Rainbow Beach Nursing Center
7325 S EXCHANGE
Chicago

Sheridan Shores
5838 N SHERIDAN RD
Chicago

Sterling Pavilion
105 E 23rd St
Sterling

Symphony at Aria
4600 N FRONTAGE RD
Hillside

Symphony at Chicago West
5130 W Jackson Blvd
Chicago

Symphony at Midway
4437 S Cicero Ave
Chicago

Symphony at Morgan Park
10935 S Halsted St
Chicago

The Villa at Windsor Park Nursing
2649 E 75th St
Chicago

Willow Crest Nursing Pavilion
515 N Main St,
Sandwich

Winston Manor
2155 W PIERCE
Chicago
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