Workers at 14 Pennsylvania nursing homes go on strike

Gov. Wolf speaks at a podium surrounded by elected officials and others.

Gov. Tom Wolf, flanked by advocates for nursing home operators and workers, in July celebrated the $600 million investment in long-term care facilities. (Commonwealth Media Services)

Workers from 14 Pennsylvania nursing homes went on strike Friday after marathon contract negotiations failed to produce a deal.

About 700 unionized workers walked off the job in a dispute over pay, benefits and staffing levels. Photos and video on social media showed picket lines going up outside many of the homes, with workers carrying signs and wearing the purple T-shirts of their union, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania.

“Our goal has always been — and continues to be — to get a fair contract that invests in this entire workforce and will meaningfully address the staffing crisis,” said Matthew Yarnell, SEIU president.

He accused the nursing home operators of “failing to create the kind of wage scales we’ve been able to achieve with other providers.”

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Talks began Thursday morning and ended early Friday without a deal, with no new negotiations scheduled. The strike impacted homes in a dozen counties throughout the state.

Nursing homes have long struggled with high turnover, which the COVID-19 pandemic made worse, and some facilities were forced to close or downsize because of lagging Medicaid reimbursements, according to trade groups.

State lawmakers and the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf recently hiked Medicaid payments to nursing homes by nearly $300 million annually and sent another $130 million in federal coronavirus aid to help them hire and retain workers.

Pennsylvania has about 700 licensed nursing homes.

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