Infinity nursing home strike enters second week with talks resuming Tuesday

Shaba Andrich, of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, hopes a deal can be made soon after bargaining sessions last week were canceled.

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Nursing home workers’ strike enters its second week with bargaining sessions set to resume Tuesday evening.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file photo

Negotiations between nursing home union members and operators of Infinity Healthcare Management will resume Tuesday evening after bargaining sessions were “canceled” last week, a union official says.

Shaba Andrich, vice president for nursing homes at SEIU Healthcare Illinois, said a federal mediator is working to bring both sides back to the table after Infinity owner Moishe Gubin left the city last week Sunday.

“We were supposed to negotiate last Friday right after Thanksgiving, that negotiation was canceled — not by us,” Andrich said Monday afternoon during a Zoom call. “We have a federal mediator involved and he’s pulling both sides together to see where we are at and see if we can bridge the gap.”

Andrich said they are prepared to adjust their positions but executives at Infinity have shot their proposals down.

Infinity has not responded to requests for comments from the Sun-Times.

Nearly 700 nursing home workers at Infinity locations in Chicago and surrounding suburbs left the job Nov. 23 demanding improved working conditions, base salaries between $15 and $15.50 an hour (up from $11.50 to $13.50, depending on location) and hazard pay for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.

SEIU Healthcare Illinois, which is an investor in Sun-Times Media, has been negotiating for a new contract with Infinity since June.

“This employer is allowing the residents to suffer in the meantime in order to make a point or because of ego, who knows, but he is not doing the right thing,” Andrich said. “He could’ve ended this strike last week. He could’ve made sure there wasn’t a strike at all.”

Infinity has relied on temporary workers to replace longtime staff since the strike started, according to union officials. This, Andrich said, has caused the quality of care to worsen.

One resident, who spoke with anonymity to the media during the Zoom call, said she isn’t receiving the care she’s accustomed to.

“It has become very stressful with the temporary agency because they are just thrown to the wolves basically,” the resident said. “They don’t take the time nor the effort to get to know the residents, their preferences, their schedules or anything.”

One of the biggest problems is being told she has to work with male certified nursing assistance, which she is uncomfortable with doing.

“That’s been a big struggle with getting the male CNAs to understand that it isn’t that I don’t like men, but simply I am not comfortable,” she said.

Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.

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