DETROIT – Around 1,600 Detroit nursing home workers are set to go on strike later this month due to concerns about the safety of residents during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Workers are planning to go on strike Aug. 17, more than five months into the pandemic. They’re citing “unfair labor practices that illustrate the industry’s failure to keep workers and residents safe.”
“COVID-19 showed the public what the Black women who work in nursing homes have known for years: These homes put profits over people,” said Izella Hayes, a nursing assistant at Imperial Nursing Home. “We’re standing up to greedy nursing home owners and demanding safe staffing so that every worker and resident can be treated with the dignity they deserve.”
Workers at 18 homes across Metro Detroit -- all but two of which are represented by for-profit nursing home chains Villa, Ciena, Charles and Dunn -- claim staffing ratios put residents at risk. They want nursing hoem owners to provide adequate personal protective equipment for the rest of the pandemic, pay frontline workers a living wage and take responsibility for the crisis of COVID-19 within nursing homes.
“It’s no coincidence that nearly 2,000 nursing home workers and residents have died from COVID-19 in Michigan alone,” said Trece Andrews, a laundry worker at Regency at St. Clair Shores. “Nursing home owners failed to prepare for this virus before it arrived and failed to protect us once it was here. I care for my residents like they’re my family. By going on strike, I’m not just fighting on behalf of nursing home workers. I’m fighting for my residents, too.”
Striking workers in Detroit plan to draw attention to racial disparities inherent to the nursing home crisis.
“The overwhelming majority of us are Black, and we are being forced to work through the crisis on poverty wages and without sufficient PPE at a time when Black people are getting sick and dying at higher rates,” said Lisa Elliott, a nursing assistant at Regency at St. Clair Shores. “We’re called essential, but we’re treated like we’re expendable. We’re calling on nursing home owners to pay us a living wage so we can afford to get healthcare just like we provide it, and put in place proper safety protocols and guarantee PPE throughout the pandemic.”