Nursing home workers see Fight for $15 as vital to quality care

Golden Living Center workers Rhoda Brown (L) and Tsge Abraham rally for a fair contract outside the company's Lakeridge site in Roseville.

Golden Living Center workers Rhoda Brown (L) and Tsge Abraham rally for a fair contract outside the company’s Roseville facility.

On the same day over 100 Twin Cities fast-food workers went on strike, area nursing home workers took up the “Fight for $15” as well, rallying outside a Roseville care center for a contract that includes fair wages.

Employees of Golden Living Center welcomed nursing-home residents, striking fast-food workers and other supporters to an informational picket line outside GSL’s Lakeridge site in Roseville yesterday.

About 350 members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota are in contract negotiations with the company, which operates nursing homes across the state. Tim Sorenson, a 25-year employee and member of the union’s negotiating team, said workers want GSL to put a recent influx of state funding for nursing homes where lawmakers intended the money to go – into workers’ paychecks.

“It’s getting harder to find people who want to do this work for the pay we get,” Sorenson said. “Yet our work is very important. We take care of the most vulnerable people among us, our seniors.”

In Minnesota, certified nursing assistants’ median hourly wage is $12.22, and one-third rely on public assistance. It’s a major reason turnover rates for nursing assistants exceeded 50 percent in 2012 and are expected to climb – an alarming trend in an industry expected to see an uptick in demand as baby boomers retire.

“Too many people I work with want to go to other jobs where there’s better pay instead of staying in this job to take care of our seniors,” Sorenson said.

Tim Sorenson speaks at the rally outside GLC's Lakeridge home.

Tim Sorenson speaks at the rally outside GLC’s Lakeridge home.

Sorenson and other GSL workers were among SEIU members in more than 40 cities nationwide who stood up for fair wages and quality care at nursing homes. The timing of the nationwide day of action – on the same day fast-food workers in a record 320 cities went on strike – is more proof that the “Fight for $15” is catching on among low-wage workers in all sectors of the economy.

“No matter if you’re in health care or maintenance or whatever, we all need to be there for each other,” Sorenson said. “That helps you get what you’re after in the long run.”

GSL workers’ current union contract is set to expire May 1.

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