Trisha Miechur started working at Pennsylvania nursing home HCR ManorCare-Easton in 2005 as a Certified Nurse's Aide (CNA). She was excited by the chance to be doing something she loves--spending quality time with seniors and providing them with the care they need to live their final years with dignity.
The nursing home is part of the HCR ManorCare system. Based in Toledo, Ohio, the company boasts of having more than 500 locations in 32 states with 60,000 employees. In 2009, HCR ManorCare made a final net profit of $201.4 million.
For Trisha, her co-workers and the patients they serve, ManorCare's success and profitability does not translate into the proper staffing levels and management you would want your loved ones to have.
"When you have 14 to 20 residents to take care of during your shift, you cannot take care of them. I'm stretched so thin, constantly running between rooms trying to keep up with my residents' needs and there are some days when I'm exhausted and just can't give them the care that I know they deserve," said Trisha.
In 2007, Trisha and her co-workers got fed up with the short-staffing, high turnover and low pay so they decided to form a union so they could have a voice in the decisions that affected the residents and their families.
Even though they came to the decision themselves, democratically, once management heard there was talk of a union, within two days they had started an anti-union campaign. In less than two weeks, with the help of a professional union-busting consultant, employees were thrown into a vicious intimidation and harassment campaign that continues to this day--four years later.
"While we were trying to form our union, we were repeatedly taken away from our residents to go to mandatory meetings with these consultants and our bosses who told us a union will not make it better. They said a third party would stop us from working together to try and solve the problems," said Trisha. "When we told them what the problems were and how we had tried to talk to them before about solving them, they said it was a new day and changes would be coming. Well, four years later I'm still waiting for those changes. How can you fix a company when they are not willing to fix it?"
Trisha said: "As we continued to organize, we started talking about our situation publicly. At one point, I was given a final written warning because management accused me of asking residents and their family members to sign letters to state Rep. Mundy (D-Luzerne) about quality of care and short-staffing at our nursing home. The warning said I was being disloyal to the company and if my 'behavior' continued, I would be 'subject to termination.'"
Due to the broken NLRB process, ManorCare had every incentive to drag out the process, appeal and delay at every point so they could continue to identify and try and get rid of pro-union employees.
"After I was written up, I was scared whenever I walked into work. I thought I had legal rights but it seemed the system was blind to what was happening to us, that it existed to work against us, and for our bosses to treat us wrong," said Trisha.
"But I'm not ashamed of what I did. I'm proud of speaking out and trying to make ManorCare a better place for seniors to receive care. What I am ashamed of is how this country continues to let employers bully workers who are trying to improve their lives," she continued.
"Unless the process changes, stories like mine will never change. Management has all the power to make you afraid your next day at work will be your last just because you want to have a voice in improving the company. It will be the same story, different day, different year, different month, different never-ending process," Trisha said.