Dec 7, 2020
Seven hundred workers at Infinity Health Care nursing homes ended their 12 day strike Friday evening, after reaching a tentative agreement. The workers, represented by SEIU’s Healthcare local, are primarily Certified Nursing Assistants, as well as dietary aides, housekeepers and laundry workers.
Shantonia Jackson, a CNA in Cicero, west of Chicago, describes the job: “We’re all hands-on with everything. We’re here to brush your teeth, comb your hair, pick your clothes out, clean you. I’m really hands-on with the emotion as well, just talking to people and making sure they’re okay.” It’s essential work—caring for the health and emotional needs of the elderly.
The intimate nature of the work makes it high risk during the Covid pandemic, both for the workers and especially for the home residents. Cicero’s Cityview Multi-Care Center is the largest nursing home in the state—and one of the largest Covid outbreaks, with 259 residents and workers testing positive, and 8 deaths.
Infinity has been paying as little as $11.50 an hour to CNA’s at some of its eleven Chicago-area facilities. Paying low wages helps to line the pockets of its owners—Infinity is a for-profit operation, drawing a large share of its revenue from Medicare and Medicaid. Moreover, Infinity drew 12.7 million in funds from the CARES act earlier this year.
By striking, the workers won an immediate wage increase of $1 to $2 an hour, plus hazard pay, and additional sick-time. The strike is a move in the right direction for workers willing to defend themselves.