Julia Shenkar,, 202-317-0540

Issued June 18, 2020

Amid COVID-19 Devastation, Nursing Home Workers Launch Nationwide Campaign to Protect Workers, Residents

TODAY: Nursing home workers hold national day of action, honor lives lost to COVID-19 in 14 states

Workers launch national campaign for weekly COVID-19 testing, PPE, Unions for All, end to legal protections for facility owners

NATIONWIDE— As more than 50,000 nursing home residents and workers have died from COVID-19 and as reports indicate that thousands of nursing homes have not faced proper inspections from state agencies, nursing home workers are taking matters into their own hands with the launch of a national campaign Thursday to win greater health and safety protections for workers and residents. Workers are also fighting for structural changes to the nation’s economy to give all workers — Black, brown, white, Asian Pacific Islander — a seat at the table. The effort is organized by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the nation’s largest union of healthcare workers. 

As a part of the campaign, workers are releasing a set of demands during today’s day of action, which will feature vigils and events honoring workers and residents who have needlessly lost their lives to COVID-19. In 20 states, both union and non-union workers are calling for greater protections as news reports attribute more than two in five COVID-19 deaths to nursing homes and long term care facilities and as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise rapidly in many states.

I saw the COVID-19 pandemic spread hard and fast at my facility. A lot of frontline workers, including myself, caught the virus,” said Cheryl Burnette, a CNA in California. “I saw a resident of ours pass away. We did not have enough PPE, especially masks, to properly suit up to take care of our patients and ourselves. We had to use the same PPE on different patients. When we got sick, we had to use what little sick time we had. All of this is completely unacceptable to me and my co-workers and that's why we're fighting for a union. I feel like every nursing home worker should be able to be part of a union so we can unite our voices and change what's wrong here.” 

Nursing home workers united in SEIU have been calling for PPE, no cost testing, and a nationally coordinated response since the early days of the pandemic. With today's launch, nursing home workers are calling out the government and nursing home owners for their failures and coming together to do whatever it takes to protect themselves, their families and their residents. They are joined by a surge of thousands of workers who want to unite in a union to make sure essential workers have the protections, training and support needed throughout the pandemic and beyond. Workers’ demands include: 

Thousands of brave women and men who work on the frontlines of care are coming together and turning their outrage and loss into action,” said SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry. “It’s past time for all nursing home workers to have a seat at the table with facility owners and government officials to rewrite the rules and ensure the health and safety of workers and residents. If we are truly committed to ending this senseless loss of life, we must all support these common sense demands of nursing home workers.” 

A full list of demands can be found here and below.

Workers, Allies Honor Residents and Fellow Workers Through Vigils 

Today, nursing home workers across 14 states will participate in a day of action, during which they will hold vigils in front of nursing homes, at state capitol buildings and on city streets to demand action to stop the continuing deaths of residents and nursing home workers. The thousands of nursing home deaths in each state will be represented by lights, flowers and flags. 

Just last week, SEIU released the results of a nationwide survey of nursing home workers that showed nearly 80 percent of workers surveyed believe they put their lives at risk by going to work daily. Additionally, 80 percent of nursing home workers surveyed also believe the government isn’t doing enough to protect workers, the vast majority of whom are women and more than half who are people of color. If forced to self-quarantine without pay, 85 percent of workers surveyed report that they would struggle to afford housing and food. 

The vast majority of nursing home workers are women, and more than half are people of color. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that even as states begin to ease lockdowns and allow some visitation in these facilities, deaths associated with nursing homes have leapt above 50,000 and infection cases have risen above 250,000. 

Workers Launch Demands on Government, Facility Owners

SEIU nursing home workers demand government and facility owners come to the table with workers to implement the following: 

  1. Racial and economic justice for all workers — Black, brown, white, Asian Pacific Islander, as well as immigrant nursing home workers — so that regardless of the color of our skin or where we come from, we can all care for ourselves and our own families.
  2. Unions for all nursing home workers so that we have a voice in delivering care and can make these low-paying, dangerous jobs into good jobs. United in our union, we can negotiate better wages, benefits and protections standards for all nursing home workers. 
  3. Frontline workers should have a voice at state tables to establish health, safety and employment standards across the industry. This means stronger state regulations to hold nursing home corporations accountable for health and safety violations and targeted PPE distribution, and accountability for federal relief dollars.
  4. A clear, specific plan to address the racial disparities in care for Black and Brown residents that COVID-19 has exposed. 
  5. The personal protective equipment (PPE) we need to keep ourselves, residents and our communities safe, including gloves, face shields or goggles, and protective clothing and N95 respirators where needed. 
  6. Regular/weekly COVID-19 testing for all nursing home workers at no cost to workers. 
  7. Fully covered treatment of COVID-19 for all nursing home workers so that no one is forced to go to work sick and workers are no longer at risk of unknowingly spreading illness at work or at home.
  8. Paid sick days, and double-time hazard pay so that workers fighting the virus on the front lines can care for our own families. 
  9. The end of legal protections for nursing home corporations and employers who have failed to protect all nursing home workers and residents so that every employer can be held accountable to nursing home workers, residents and family members, and taxpayers. 
  10. Family-sustaining wages and affordable healthcare, so that we can live healthy lives without fear of missing a bill payment or ending up in the emergency room because we can’t afford to see a doctor. 
  11. Enough staff to keep both workers and residents safe and provide the highest quality care. All residents — Black, Latino, Asian Pacific Islander or white — deserve the best care possible. 
  12. Sufficient funding for nursing homes, with clear requirements that state and federal funding goes to resident care, not corporate profits.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) unites 2 million diverse members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, including more than 75,000 nursing home workers. SEIU members working in the healthcare industry, in the public sector and in property services believe in the power of joining together on the job to win higher wages and benefits and to create better communities while fighting for a more just society and an economy that works for all of us, not just corporations and the wealthy.

Protect All Workers Workers at the forefront of the coronavirus pandemic launched Protect All Workers, a demand calling on leading industries — from airlines to hospitals to fast-food and beyond — to take immediate, sweeping, and concrete actions to protect the health, safety and financial security of all workers in America. Backed by the 2 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and workers in the Fight for $15 and a Union, Protect All Workers is mobilizing thousands of working people to pressure corporate leaders and elected officials to protect all workers amid the global pandemic and economic crisis.