Jesus Figueroa Cacho, a Certified Practical Nurse from the Sacramento, California area, has worked in the nursing home industry for approximately 25 years.
She regularly works 16-hour shifts, 60-80 hours a week, often working breaks and not receiving overtime because her employer, she works night shifts and overtime resets at 1 a.m. morning every day, in the middle of his shifts. Figueroa Cacho said her facility was severely understaffed, often with just two nurses to care for around 50 patients.
“I come home exhausted, I have to drive 40 miles to come to work. It’s by choice because I love my residents, I love my job, but I only have two hours to get home and very little time to sleep before I have to go back to work,” said said Figueroa Cacho.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, his employer benefited from the help of the national guard and recruitment agencies, but this contributed to the resignation of many workers because they were paid much better than the permanent staff, who receive just above the minimum wage.
“We would like to tackle poverty wages. If I don’t do 16-hour shifts, I can’t pay my rent,” Figueroa Cacho said. “I have a son in college. My son was turned down last semester because I didn’t have enough money to pay for his school. It’s devastating. We must be paid for our work.
Today, Local 2015 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents 400,000 nursing home and home care workers in California, the largest long-term care union in the United States, calls for a proposal to create a statewide quality standards board to oversee the state’s nursing home industry in the wake of the pandemic that decimated industry staff.
the plank would comprise 16 seats, with 10 state agency seats, two workers, two seats representing lawyers and families, and two representing employers. The board will have the power to set minimum standards for wages, benefits and working conditions for the California nursing home industry.
It follows similar efforts to establish industry oversight boards with worker representation in California’s fast food industry and New York’s nail salon industry.
According to SEIU Local 2015 President April Verrett, the board, which was proposed by the union along with California State Senator Henry Stern and Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, is advocated for be included in the next california state budgetwhich is currently the subject of hearings before the state legislature ahead of the next fiscal year begin July 1.
“Our members want to make sure we’re addressing a long-standing crisis in our state’s nursing homes when it comes to ensuring the quality of care is what facility residents deserve, that families can rely on. and that we once and for all get to the root of why people are leaving this industry,” Verrett said.
Verrett added: “They want to make sure that as we approach how we solve this crisis, workers have a place at the table so that they can participate in creating real solutions so that we have a long-term care system that provides the highest quality care for residents, but also ensures that the workforce receives the dignity, respect and compensation it deserves.
A survey A survey by the Care Home Industry Workers Union found that half of care home workers are likely to leave their jobs in the next year, citing severe staff shortages and low wages.
In 2020, there was a turnover rate of more than 50% in the California retirement home industry. The skilled nursing industry in the United States has lost 241,000 jobs since the start of the pandemic, 15.2% of the industry’s total workforce,
During the pandemic, nursing homes have been among the hardest hit by infections and deaths of residents and workers, representing 31% of all Covid deaths in the United States as of June 30, 2021.
According to SEIU Local 2015, more than 82,000 nursing home workers in California contracted Covid-19 during the pandemic and 247 workers died.
“The Quality Standards Council is one of the best things for a long time because it gives ordinary workers the opportunity to sit on such a council that has real experience of what is happening in these areas,” said Robert Oriona, a nursing home worker. in the Los Angeles, California area.
Oriona noted that her nephew earns more than he works in fast food, and his employer has offered meager 1.5% salary increase proposals that will be reversed when the minimum wage in Los Angeles increases in July 2022. for about $16 per hour. He also frequently experiences verbal and physical abuse from residents who don’t have enough staff to properly care for them, faulty equipment, and poor benefits.
“We are asking for help. Patient minimums, better wages, better benefits, and we need everyone to know what’s going on in these facilities,” Oriona added.
Charisma Elok, a rehabilitation assistant for seven years at a Los Angeles-area nursing home, said her facility’s staff had shrunk during the pandemic, amid Covid outbreaks, low pay and a lack of staff
She had to fight to get paid after contracting Covid at work at the start of the pandemic, worked with inadequate personal protective equipment, and her facility often cannot handle the number or type of patients they admit in due to understaffing and not having the right trained staff to care for high needs patients, such as residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
“These nursing homes, they view patients as dollar signs on their heads, because why are you accepting a patient that you can’t provide an adequate quality of care?” says Elok.