Progressive Filipino-American youths from Anakbayan New York/New Jersey, USA joined striking workers of at least four nursing home facilities in New Jersey and New York in their fight for justice in the workplace. With members of allied organizations from Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-USA (Bayan-USA), the youth group supported the union workers’ fight against the nursing home facilities’ owner, Avery Eisenreich.
On July 8, Anakbayan NY/NJ, together with representatives from the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), joined the workers’ rally at Castle Hill in New York City. Unionized workers under Local 1199 Service Employees and International Union (SEIU) staged the rally to step up pressure on Avery Eisenreich and compel the management to negotiate with them.
On August 7, a combined 400 workers from Bristol Manor, Castle Hill, Palisade and Harbor View nursing home facilities went on a three-day strike after negotiations failed.
“Seeing the workers stand their ground against unjust and unfair labor practices is really inspiring,” said Bea Sabino, an Anakbayan NY/NJ member. “This strike serves as a beacon of light to other workers, particularly immigrant workers, who are suffering from abuse and exploitation.”
Workers at the Harbor View Healthcare Center in Jersey City, New Jersey, under Omni Corporation, have been working without a contract since 2007, according to Anakbayan-NY/NJ. They added that kitchen and housekeeping crews receive a depressing starting pay of $7.90 an hour while certified nursing assistants get a measly $8.75 an hour. In this condition, the workers said paying for their family health insurance of $165 per paycheck has become a burden, especially when they are living from paycheck to paycheck.
On the other hand, the youth group said Eisenreich, the owner of the said nursing home facilities, receives up to $10,000 per hour from the enterprise’s profit.
“These industrious workers make these facilities work. They provide care to the most vulnerable citizens and yet they are suffering and are living in poverty,” said Kathleen Dy, a member of Anakbayan NY/NJ. It is only just for them to demand what is rightfully theirs. The youth recognizes these facts and that is why we’re joining their picket line.”
In the picket line, contingents from Anakbayan NY/NJ and Bayan-USA gave their solidarity messages to the striking workers. They joined the workers in shouting, “What do we want? Contract! When do we want it? Now!” and “The workers, united, will never be defeated!”
The day ended with high hopes and new friendships between the activists and the striking workers.
The Struggle Continues
Fourteen workers, dubbed as the “Omni 14,” have been illegally replaced and barred from the premises, reported Anakbayan NY/NJ. “This is an attempt to retaliate against workers who are asking for more than a poverty wage,” said 1199SEIU Executive Vice President Milly Silva.
On Aug.10, after the three-day strike, the workers who were scheduled to work clocked-in with their heads held high. Saying “we are ready to work,” they went back to work with the same energy and quality care they usually provide their patients.
According to Anakbayan NY/NJ, the strike has ended but the struggle continues. The contract between Local SEIU 1199 Union and Omni Corporation is still being worked out.
“In a time of crisis, the management will always push the burden on the workers. This current struggle in Palisade, Bristol Manor, Castle Hill and Harbor View clearly shows that the management’s interest will always be in contradiction with the interest of the workers, Yves Nibungco, Deputy Secretary General of Anakbayan NY/NJ said. “Only through the workers’ collective and continuous action can they claim what is rightfully theirs.” (Bulatlat.com)