1199 members from Alameda Center nursing home in Perth Amboy, NJ, picketed at their workplace on Thursday, July 21st to demand that the facility reverse its decision to lay off at least 18 workers, a move which caregivers say is jeopardizing quality care for residents and will cause immediate financial hardship for workers and their families.
Lillian Martinez, a certified nursing assistant, received a letter in the mail saying that she will be dismissed effective July 27th. “I always go above and beyond for my residents and I was so shocked when I found out I was being let go,” she said. “I am very worried about my family’s future. My son has Crohn’s disease and relies on my husband and me to care for him. I don’t know how we’re going to be able to afford our rent without my job.”
Workers picketed for hours and their spirits were buoyed by several residents of the nursing home who came to support their caregivers’ demands. “If they [1199 members] don’t get what they want and people are laid off, what will happen to the residents? We’ll all be on the ropes,” said Gloria Selberg, who has lived at the facility for the past year. “All these people out here have families and have to pay for rent, food, and everything else. They should all have good jobs and make a decent wage.”
William Vazquez was visiting his 82 year old mother Aida at the facility on the day of the picket and they decided to march alongside members on the picket line.
“Elderly people who need help and family members like myself depend on nursing centers and their caregivers. We are out here for solidarity to show our support,” said Mr. Vazquez. “There’s no reason given all the money the nursing home gets from federal funding for them to be cutting back.”
Alameda Center came under new ownership in April, 2016, and the layoffs come at a time when the 250-bed facility has a high occupancy rate of 94%. The nursing home has also come under fire for illegally taking away workers’ benefits, including stopping contributions to nurses’ retirement plans and quadrupling health insurance co-pays for workers in the dietary department.
At the picket, members demanded that the company and agree to a fair contract that will improve jobs and protect benefits for all workers at the facility. “People have needs, families to support,” explained Aedric Williams, who has been a housekeeper at Alameda Center for the past 12 years. “I make only $10.67 an hour and my wife and I are barely able to get by, to buy food for the kids and pay our bills. We all work hard and come in each morning to give special care to our residents. We need to be able to provide for our children, too!”