Issued June 09, 2020
As nursing home death toll passes 44,000, workers call for those in power to be held accountable
NATIONWIDE — As nursing homes across the United States continue to face the devastating impact of COVID-19, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the nation’s largest union of nursing home workers, released a survey Tuesday showing that nearly 80 percent of nursing home workers believe they are risking their lives by going to work every day. In addition, 80 percent of nursing home workers also believe the government isn’t doing enough to protect workers, the vast majority of whom are women and more than half who are people of color.
The New York Times recently reported that two in five of COVID-19 victims in the U.S. are residents and workers at nursing homes and long-term care facilities. According to the Times’ estimate, “More than 233,000 residents and employees have been infected in those homes, and more than 44,000 have died.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Black, white, brown and Asian Pacific Islander nursing home workers have been coming together to demand basic protections such as paid sick leave and proper PPE, as well as a seat at the table to have a voice through a union to press for a living wage and affordable healthcare. Workers in at least 20 states are organizing through SEIU to push for structural change to the nation’s economy and rewrite the rules to put worker safety and public health ahead of corporate profits.
TOPLINE RESULTS (rounded to the nearest whole number)
Responses point to the fear that nursing home workers feel on the job:
Nursing home workers are also deeply concerned for the safety of their residents:
The survey illuminates ongoing economic challenges for nursing home workers:
Full results are available here.
“We are still in a daily fight for our lives,” said Sharonda Stokes, a CNA at a Chicago nursing home and an SEIU Healthcare Illinois member. “A large number of residents where I work have tested positive for COVID-19. PPE was rationed out such as gloves, gowns and masks. I am living proof of the crisis in our nursing homes — I was personally diagnosed with COVID-19. I didn't know I had it. I worried that I might have passed it on. It weighs heavy on my heart.”
“Decision makers have failed to protect workers and our residents from the worst of this pandemic,” said Pearl Gooden, a Tampa, Fla., nursing home worker for over 40 years and an 1199SEIU member. “From the start, nursing homes were left behind. To this day, we don’t have nearly enough PPE. My union donated N-95 masks for us to use. If it wasn’t for my union, we would have to wear the same surgical mask all day.”
“The majority of nursing home workers are women and people of color,” Gooden continued. “I know because of my black skin, I have been overlooked and mistreated. People who look like me are getting sick and dying. To our leaders I ask, do you see what’s happening in America’s nursing homes? Do you even care?”
“It’s heartbreaking and infuriating that nursing home workers fear for their lives as they work tirelessly to care for seniors, people with disabilities and veterans,” said SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry. “Essential workers should be treated as essential — with PPE, paid leave and pandemic pay. These workers have been fighting to improve care in nursing homes long before COVID-19. They deserve a seat at the table with employers and government to rewrite the rules to ensure health and safety for themselves and their residents, and every worker should be able to join together in a union for the power to win racial and economic justice.”
Through the nationwide Protect All Workers campaign, frontline workers including healthcare workers are shining a bright light on the conditions workers are facing. Healthcare workers organized the largest one-day protest demanding PPE, they’ve blown the whistle on hospitals ignoring safety protocol, and are urging people to stay home as anti-lockdown rallies emerge.
“What we’re seeing right now in nursing homes battling COVID-19 is hell on earth,” said Julie Moore, a CNA and member of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. “In my 20 years as a certified nursing assistant, I’ve never seen anything like this pandemic. But now is our moment to speak out together, share our stories and call for the changes we need from both employers and elected officials at every level to protect residents and protect ourselves. Together, we can change the work we do from today onward.”
About the Survey
Conducted by the Service Employees International Union, the survey was fielded May 20—June 7, 2020, and has a margin of error of -/+ 3 percentage points. The opt-in survey was conducted online in English and Spanish and included a national sample of 2,397 nursing home workers living in the United States.
Service Employees International Union
The Service Employees International Union is the nation's second-largest labor union and the largest union of healthcare workers. SEIU is an organization of nearly 2 million members united by their belief in the dignity and worth of workers and the services they provide and dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just and humane society.
Protect All Workers
Workers at the forefront of the growing coronavirus pandemic recently launched Protect All Workers, a demand calling on leading industries — from airlines to hospitals to fast-food and beyond — to take immediate, sweeping, and concrete actions to protect the health, safety and financial security of all workers in America. Backed by the 2 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and workers in the Fight for $15 and a Union, Protect All Workers is mobilizing thousands of working people to pressure corporate leaders and elected officials to protect all workers amid the global pandemic and economic crisis.