ST. LOUIS — Workers at Blue Circle Rehab and Nursing have complained of unfair treatment and low wages for months now, staging multiple protests as part of the SEIU healthcare workers’ union.
On Thursday, they went on a one-day unfair labor practices strike, and were supported in rallying outside of Blue Circle Rehab and Nursing by Mayor Tishaura O. Jones and Alderman James Page.
As of August 1, the north city nursing home had reported 30 COVID-19 cases among its residents and staff, according to the U.S. News and World Report website. Meanwhile, workers say that the nursing home has refused to bargain for a better contract “in good faith.”
The Reverend Darryl Gray, who regularly joins labor-rights related actions such as these, stated that “It’s beyond time that frontline health care workers receive the respect, the protection and the pay that they deserve” outside the nursing home Thursday. Gray mentioned several of the specific things that the workers were bargaining for: “Workers deserve a voice in the decisions impacting their health & safety on the job, employers who provide proper PPE, safe staffing, and safety protocols, & $15,” he said.
Residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term congregate care facilities have been among the hardest-hit by COVID-19. Meanwhile, nursing home employee vaccination rates in Missouri remain relatively low, at 48% as compared to 82% of nursing home residents. Representatives of SEIU Healthcare, the union that organized the strike, have recently stated that they support a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. The Biden administration recently ordered that all nursing homes accepting Medicare and Medicaid would be required to ensure their workers were fully vaccinated, or risk losing federal funding.
“We need respect right now,” said Blue Circle worker Lamarr Young at Thursday’s protest.
Mayor Tishaura Jones also joined the striking nursing home workers last winter, and she recalled their sacrifices in the time since then. “While millions worked safer from home, essential workers headed in day after day to put their health on the line,” Jones said. She added that she lost her last living uncle in a nursing home to COVID-19.
“For months, nursing home workers have been on the front lines taking care of our loved ones. And it is time to make sure they are protected, respected, and paid what they are worth.”