NEW YORK — “I get to help people," Dudley Julien says about being a Certified Nursing Assistant. "It’s one of the best, fulfilling jobs I ever did.”
He says caring for nursing home residents lifts him up, but salary issues bring him down.
The Beach Gardens Rehab and Nursing Center in Far Rockaway, Queens hasn’t paid Julien the raise he was due in October. He’s worked at the center for three decades.
“Of all the years I've been here, and all the work I put in this facility, it have me thinking they don’t care about us,” he said.
"I’m crushed behind it," said Rich Elliot, a floor technician at the facility.
"I feel really frustrated,” complained Leon Andrew, a maintenance mechanic.
The union workers say the company told them it doesn't have the money to pay the 3% raises they were counting on under their contract.
“This concerns life or death. I might not have made it back home to my family, or I might have brought this COVID stuff home to my family knowing we had this in the facility," Elliot said, "and for us to come to work and work as hard as we did, to receive this, they can’t pay us our raise — I think that’s unfair."
“We have a crises,” explains Milly Silva, an executive vice president of 1199 Service Employees International Union.
Thousands of her members in New York have not received their scheduled raises during the pandemic.
“It is something we find unconscionable, disrespectful, and we are doing everything we can to hold them accountable,” said Silva.
The union has filed arbitration notices against nearly 200 for-profit nursing homes that have not paid the raises.
“One thing that nobody wants to happen is for a nursing home to go bankrupt,” said Michael Balboni, the executive director of the Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association, a trade group for the industry.
He says the homes are losing revenue as residents die, but their costs are soaring. A national survey shows 66% of nursing homes say they will not make it another year.
“We’ve seen the lowest levels in the history of the long-term care industry for residents," Balboni said, "and unparalleled, unprecedented costs associated with running nursing homes, including testing and personal protective equipment, and then the cuts in state aid."
Julien doesn't want anyone backtracking on what was agreed to. He has little sympathy for his employer’s financial woes. He fell ill with a case of COVID-19 that he thinks he caught at work and came back for his $22 an hour, which should be $23.
“Treat us fair, that’s all we ask,” he said.
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