After six months of no contract, union workers picket Rochester rehab center

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Armed with signs, noisemakers, and matching shirts, fed-up union members of a local rehab facility marched outside their workplace Thursday.

They marched in circles outside the entrance, stopping only to let cars enter and exit.

The employees have been negotiating a new union contract with the Rochester Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing for the past six months, but have reached a stalemate. Picketers Thursday — represented by the healthcare union 1199 SEIU — said that they are mostly fighting for higher pay. They said their employer will only increase wages if employee healthcare takes a large cut, which they are not accepting.

“We’re fighting because we believe that these workers deserve better,” Tracey Harrison, Vice President of Rochester’s 1199 SEIU chapter, said. “They show up here every day, and unfortunately are not getting what they deserve.”

Employees said they are critically understaffed, and not currently meeting the state-mandated staffing minimums for a nursing home. Harrison said that low wages are driving employees out the door.

“They’re not getting a livable wage, quality benefits, dignity, and respect — all the things that’s necessary in order to come here and do this hard work, day-to-day.”

During the demonstration, organizers said to the crowd that the employer had reached out earlier that morning. He was willing to go back to the bargaining table, and reconsider the terms of the contract.

Rochester Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing spokesperson Jeff Jacomowitz released this statement on Friday morning:

“Our clinical staff at Rochester Center work very hard and tirelessly every day to make sure the residents are fully cared for and are safe.  For this, we are happy to say that negotiations with 1199 regarding wages has been progressing very well and we are positive that both sides will be pleased at the end.”