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No new talks planned as Infinity nursing home strike continues for a 2nd day, union says

Negotiations for a new contract with nursing home workers have stalled and union is not sure when the next bargaining session will be held.

SEIU Health Care Illinois members walked out of the job Monday in hopes of better pay and working conditions.
AP Photos

Union officials representing nearly 700 nursing home workers who hit the picket lines this week said the owner of the 11 facilities has left town and they aren’t sure when negotiations for a new contract will resume.

“The employer has refused to make a move,” said Shaba Andrich, vice president for nursing homes at SEIU Healthcare Illinois. Infinity Healthcare Management Owner Moishe Gubin “had indicated to some people that he would be available to negotiate last Sunday, but then left the state and has not been able to negotiate.”

Nursing home workers at Infinity locations in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs entered their second day on strike as negotiations for a new contract remain nonexistent. Members have been fighting for improved working conditions, base salaries for 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 pandemic.

But union members claim their employer has completely walked away from the table and negotiating sessions haven’t been scheduled for the near future.

“We want to get back to negotiations, we want him to come back with different solutions and different ideas about how we get a contract done,” Andrich said during a Zoom call Tuesday afternoon. “There is none [no meetings] happening now, there is none on the calendar.”

Infinity did not respond to a request for comment.

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

Andrich said Infinity has countered their proposals with incremental pay raises from 10 cents to $1 per hour depending on years of employment. Only those working for more than 10 years would qualify for a $1 an hour raise, according to Andrich.

Several state legislators showed their support for nursing home workers and called on Infinity to “do the right thing.”

State Rep. Lakesia Collins, D-Chicago, said the fight for living wages for nursing home workers is especially important to her — she used to be one.

“I know firsthand what it is like to work a unit with 65 or more patients,” Collins said. “I know what it is like to have to dig deep down in your wallet even though you barely have enough money to cover your bills every day but you want to make sure your residents have the dignity they deserve by buying personal hygiene products.

Collins said the pandemic has put a spotlight on how little these workers are valued.

“How many more of these residents that they love and take care of have to die? How many more of their coworkers do they have to watch pass away from this virus before the nursing home owner gets it together?” she said.