Caregivers at 2 Oakland nursing homes begin strike

August 2, 2010 11:55:57 AM PDT
Hundreds of healthcare workers in the East Bay are walking the picket line instead of caring for elderly patients. A five day strike is underway at two nursing homes in Oakland.

It seems there is nothing these two sides can agree on -- not wages, not pensions and that's why they haven't had a contract since February. Because of that, hundreds of elderly nursing home residents will have to get used to new faces.

There was a rally held outside the Piedmont Gardens assisted living home on 41st Street and Piedmont. Hundreds of SEIU health care workers are taking the week off. These are the cooks, certified nursing assistants, housekeepers, and laundry workers who take care of the hundreds of residents of the Piedmont Gardens and the Grand Lake homes in Oakland.

The union claims management is offering a 1.5 percent pay increase over three years. The workers are making somewhere in the $11 to $17 range.

"I'm struggling, I'm working hard and a 1.5 percent raise is not going to do anything for me and my family and on top of that they want me to pay for my medical expenses out of pocket. Now with three kids and the money we are making -- I can't even live right now," said striking worker Keiyana Kemp.

Management said there have been many offers back and forth over the past six months. One of them was an 8 percent raise over three years. Another sticking point is retirement pay, workers want to keep their pension plan, management said the union plan is in critical status and is unsustainable.

"It requires the employer members to contribute more money than originally was agreed to bring it out of critical status. We think our employees would be better off to have 401k," said Piedmont Gardens Ex. Dir. Gayle Reynolds.

In fact, Reynolds says American Baptist Home of the West, which owns Piedmont Gardens and its sister facility, Grand Lake, would be fine offering workers to keep their pensions plan if there were other concessions.

Work rules are another sticking point. Temporary workers say they can be fired for being out sick more than five days a year. Management responded by saying that is true, if those are unexcused absences. If they have a doctor note they can take far more than five days off.

Temporary workers are currently filling in to help the elderly residents.


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