EDISON — More than 70 nursing home caregivers at JFK Hartwyck in Edison and Plainfield picketed in front of their nursing homes Thursday to protest a proposal to scrap workers’ existing health benefits. The caregivers are members of the largest healthcare workers union in the state, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East (UHWE).
Management at JFK Hartwyck is currently in negotiations with caregivers for a new labor contract at two of its New Jersey nursing homes, Edison Estates in Edison and Cedar Brook in Plainfield. Approximately 300 workers who provide daily care and support for the elderly and disabled are hoping to maintain their existing health benefits and secure minimal wage increases that keep pace with the increased cost of living, according to the union.
“With what they have on the table now, there’s no way that we would be able to pay more for our health insurance,” said Margaret Boyce, a CNA at Edison Estates. “[The price of] milk is going up, rent is going up, but our paycheck isn’t going up. I’m a single parent, and most of the time now, I work 16-hour days between two jobs just to survive. I simply cannot afford to pay more out of my pocket under a new insurance plan.”
Despite several months of bargaining, no agreement has yet been reached between management and union representatives. The union says that management has been unwilling to pay the additional contributions needed to maintain current health benefit levels.
“These caregivers are really on the front lines,” said Clauvice St. Hilaire, acting Executive Vice President of 1199 SEIU New Jersey. “They need the resources to stay healthy themselves and keep their residents healthy, too. Like so many other nursing homes—both for-profits and nonprofits—have already done, it’s time for JFK Hartwyck to settle a contract that maintains their existing health benefits and protects residents, too.”