LEWISTON, N.Y. (WIVB) — Workers at Our Lady of Peace nursing home in Lewiston unanimously voted to ratify a new contract with the Catholic health system Ascension Living.
Over 150 workers of United Healthcare Workers East (1199SEIU) approved a 20-month contract Friday after several days of negotiation. The workers’ previous contract expired at the end of December and the union returned to the bargaining table with Ascension Living in late March.
The new contract reportedly includes significant raises that credit the years of experience of each caregiver, higher starting pay, a one-time bonus of $1,000 for full-time workers and $500 for part-timers and over 7% increase to workers’ pension contributions.
Organizers from 1199SEIU told News 4 Investigates last month that nursing home staffing issues are common on a national scale, due to low pay and poor hours in the industry. Workers at Our Lady of Peace hope the new contract will help attract more workers.
“We are pleased that Ascension Living is finally working with us to get more staff in the building to help us take care of our residents,” said licensed practical nurse Krista Diez. Fellow LPN Jacqulyn Vincent expressed a similar sentiment, as she hopes the nursing home will now be able to hire more staff.
Maintenance tech Daniel Martinucci expressed his gratitude that every department was included in the agreement.
“I’m pleased that every department was recognized, resulting in a better wage scale,” he said. “We are thankful for the support from our community and all those who stood by us during these past months.”
The union filed charges in mid-March after several newly hired workers were reportedly disciplined for participating in a one-day strike with other coworkers. A protest was also held outside the health system’s headquarters in St. Louis.
Certified nurse assistant Yedda Burton said what the contract means to workers.
“This is the first time that we have ever gotten a real raise,” Burton said. “This is the biggest victory for all of us. We fought hard against a huge company and we won.”