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UFCW Local 342

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Local 342 Members Say Cutbacks in Staff Hours, Budget Causes Resident Neglect at Catholic Nursing Home in Queens

Union Workers Rally at Ozanam Hall

Queens, NY, April 27, 2012 --( Over 400 nursing home workers at Ozanam Hall in Bayside, Queens, and UFCW Local 342, the union that represents them, have taken their pleas to the public after numerous attempts to get the Home to reverse unauthorized policies and bargain a fair contract, have gone unanswered. The workers, who hold various jobs at the Home including CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistant), LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurse), Housekeeping, Dietary, Service and Maintenance, Activities, and Clerical staff, were out leafleting this past weekend, letting visitors to the Home, as well as the surrounding community, know that the residents are "not getting the proper care that they deserve."

According to the leaflets being distributed around the Home by union members, "staff hours have been drastically cut, forcing personnel to take on more work with considerably less time to complete it." As a result, "care for the residents has suffered drastically," the union and its members contend. “The understaffing of the Home has caused residents to miss feeding times, go long periods without bathing, live in unsanitary room conditions, and lie uncomfortably in soiled clothing for an extended time, among many other unspeakable horrors,” said union Executive Director Kelly Egan. The leaflet, which described many of the Home’s unfair policies on one side, also gave family and friends visiting residents an opportunity to fill out a Family Care Complaint Form on the other. "We just wanted to give the residents’ family and friends a chance to voice their concerns to the Home,” asserted Egan, who also added that the union and volunteer workers from the Home planned on handing the complaint forms to Ozanam Hall’s management once they have been analyzed.

Besides reducing hours of the staff to dangerously low levels, and not replacing staff members who call out sick, the Home has also "implemented budget cuts that have severely affected the residents’ care," according to the workers. “It has gotten to the point that we do not even have enough toiletries to properly clean the residents,” said a CNA who has worked at the Home for ten years, but wished to keep her name anonymous. “We have resorted to using pillow cases as a substitute, which we then have to clean and let other residents rest their heads on later,” the worker added. Jane Williams, another CNA at the Home, went a step further, stating that the Home no longer allows for the residents to have late night snacks either. “Many of us go out and buy the residents food with our own money just to keep them from feeling hungry,” Williams said. “All they want is a little something to eat after dinner once in a while.”

To add to the confusion, the union and Ozanam Hall have been negotiating for new contract terms since the previous one expired in 2010. However, the union stated that a "fair agreement has not yet been reached in part because the Home has continuously claimed that it is in financial distress." According to the union, the Home has also "refused to give the workers a fair wage increase despite the fact that the union’s auditor found that the Home is vastly exaggerating its supposedly poor financial standing." "The union auditor uncovered that the Home has plenty of liquid money available in reserve accounts," said Kate Meckler, the union’s Director of Communications. "There is no reason for them to be squeezing their loyal workers while also putting the residents’ care at risk. They clearly have the money,” Meckler added.

Currently, UFCW Local 342 is demanding that the Home immediately cease its unauthorized policies so that resident care is returned to the level that they deserve. Additionally, the union wants a fair living wage increase for the members, including back pay for the last two years, with all other contract language and protections remaining untouched. “The union and our members are determined to achieve their goals, and if this public outreach to the residents’ loved ones, as well as the community, does not force the Home to do the right thing, more drastic measures will be taken,” Meckler concluded.
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UFCW Local 342
Gerard Minetello

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