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20 Pennsylvania Nursing Homes Avoid One-Day Strike

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Unionized employees at Fairlane Gardens Nursing and Rehabilitation in Reading, PA reached a tentative agreement with nursing home operator Priority Healthcare Group on Monday, July 26. This avoids a one-day strike that was scheduled for Tuesday, July 27.

Unionized employees at 20 Pennsylvania nursing homes have called off a one-day strike scheduled for Tuesday, less than 24 hours before it was scheduled to take place.

On Monday morning, staff at a dozen of the facilities announced that they had reached tentative agreements and said they would not strike. The remaining eight made the same announcement just after 4:00 pm.

“Our new agreements move us in the right direction but they are only a first step in an urgent and larger conversation about reforming our long-term care system,” said Matthew Yarnell, president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania in a press release.

These 20 facilities are all operated by one of three nursing home chains: Guardian Healthcare, Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services, or Priority Healthcare Group. The portfolio of each company includes dozens of long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania and the eastern United States.

The agreements announced later Monday afternoon were reached at facilities operated by Priority Healthcare, all located in central and eastern Pennsylvania. The an eastern New York-based company did not respond to WESA’s email request for comment. A call to the phone number listed on Priority’s website was not answered.

Plans for the strike were announced earlier this month by SEIU.

“Our long term care system has faced dwindling staffing, lower care standards, and cases of fraud, abuse, and neglect,” said the union in a July 21 press release. “At the same time, those entering skilled nursing facilities arrive with far greater physical and intellectual needs.”

SEIU says employees who will now be clocking in on Tuesday include those who work at facilities in Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Venango, Washington and Westmoreland Counties. Each facility has its own contract.

The "postponed" strikes fall on the backdrop of the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s decision to update nursing home regulations. The state wants nursing homes to boost the minimum number of hours of direct personal care that every resident receives from 2.7 to 4.1. The change will require many facilities to hire more staff, which is what unionized workers have been calling on nursing home operators to do for years.

Updated: July 26, 2021 at 5:24 PM EDT
This story was updated after unionized workers at additional eight nursing homes reached tentative agreements with management on Monday afternoon.
Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio where she covered a range of issues, including the 2016 Iowa Caucuses.
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