(BEAVER, PA) — On Tuesday, 20 therapists at Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center voted unanimously to send an Unfair Labor Practice strike notice for owner Comprehensive’s failure to bargain in good faith. For six months, workers say Comprehensive delayed negotiations weeks on end, showed up to bargaining sessions unprepared on multiple occasions, and canceled or failed to attend scheduled negotiations.
“We are willing to negotiate, but it’s Comprehensive who has not shown us they want to work together toward a fair contract.” said Alysia Franitti, a Physical Therapy Assistant who has worked at Brighton for 5 years. “They’ve shown us nothing but disregard and disrespect.”
“The therapy staff continually gets high praise and good reviews from residents, but our wages do not reflect that,” said Franitti. “So when the company failed to show up with serious contract proposals and once never showed up at all, we felt disrespected. We hope to be compensated fairly for the work we do so we can continue to provide good outcomes for our patients and make a livable wage.”
Therapists at Brighton formed their union last year and are negotiating their first contract following 200 other union caregivers at Brighton settling a strong contract with Comprehensive. Brighton therapists have gone years without a raise, even throughout the pandemic. At the peak of COVID-19, management told the therapists that they did not qualify as essential workers — despite directly interacting with residents — and would not receive any COVID hazard pay.
“No healthcare worker ever wants to go on strike,” said Laura Vorrias, a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant at Brighton. “It’s been clear the company isn’t bargaining in good faith, even after we showed continued dedication to Brighton through this pandemic. We are prepared to do whatever it takes to reach a fair contract with real wage scales that recognize our experience, including going on strike together for each other! You cannot grow what you won’t water.”
Over 2,000 union nursing home workers won historic contracts after going on strike last September at some of the largest chains in Pennsylvania, including multiple Comprehensive-owned nursing homes. The contracts, which included increased wages and benefits designed to recruit and retain a skilled workforce, have paved the way for dozens of standards-setting contracts at other nursing homes across the state.
As President Joe Biden prepares to unroll new federal nursing home guidelines, including improving national staffing standards, questions of owner accountability have been heightened after the former co-owner of Brighton was federally indicted for healthcare fraud. Last month, Congressman Chris Deluzio (PA-17) met with constituent union caregivers from nursing homes in Beaver County, where Brighton’s located, to discuss these issues of accountability as well as improving staffing, training, and wages and benefits to address the care crisis.
By law, nursing home administrators must receive a 10-day notice before a strike at a healthcare facility takes place. If they are not able to reach an agreement, workers will begin their strike on May 6th.