- Associated Press - Monday, November 23, 2020

CHICAGO (AP) - Nearly 700 nursing home workers walked off the job Monday at 11 mostly Chicago-area Infinity Healthcare Management facilities, saying they won’t return until the company offers them higher wages and safer working conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic that’s hit nursing homes hard.

Striking workers and representatives of their union, SEIU Healthcare Illinois, stood outside nursing homes in Cicero, Maywood and Chicago’s Brainerd neighborhood, while recounting a list of grievances against Infinity.

Messages emailed to the company seeking comment Monday were returned as undeliverable, while telephone calls to the company’s offices in Hillside, Illinois, failed to reach any company representative.

The workers are demanding at least a $15 an hour wage, hazard pay for all employees and a sufficient supply of personal protective equipment.

Jackie Abulebdeh, who works at Southpoint Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, said she is provided only one mask for a day’s work.

The striking workers said Infinity discontinued pandemic pay for employees at the end of July and pays workers base wages well below those of other nursing homes in the Chicago area, despite receiving $12.7 million in COVID-19 funding through the federal coronavirus rescue package.

The workers said they have been without a contract since June. Their strike affects nine nursing homes in the Chicago area, WLS-TV reported. Those include City View Multicare Center in Cicero, where employee Janice Hill said she makes $14.10 an hour after 12 years and cares for 33 residents during her night shift.

“The poverty wages that nursing home workers are paid creates a downward spiral where no one wants to work at a nursing home, which creates a staffing crisis and forces good workers to leave,” Hill said at a news conference outside City View.

Shaba Andrich with SEIU Healthcare Illinois said the striking workers want hazard “not just for a few people but for everyone.”

“We’ve had members die who are housekeeping laundry workers, dietary workers; members are dying. I’m not talking about just CNAs, not just people who are dealing directly with COVID patients,” Andrich said.

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