Posts Tagged ‘wages’

Union pickets Ocala nursing home

Business editor
Published: Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 7:19 p.m.

Alan Youngblood/Ocala Star-Banner
Members of the 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East protest in front of The Lodge on Southeast Silver Springs Boulevard on Thursday May 1, 2014. The workers were protesting low wages and insufficient staffing.

Unionized workers at an Ocala nursing home who say they haven’t had a raise in more than two years answered management’s latest offer loudly, call-and-response style, while picketing outside the facility on Thursday afternoon.

“One dime/Ain’t worth my time,” they shouted as they marched in front of The Lodge Health and Rehabilitation Center at the busy intersection of Southeast 17th Street and Lake Weir Avenue.

Members of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East took to the sidewalks outside The Lodge to express their disappointment at Greystone Health Network’s latest offer of a raise of 10 cents per hour.

“That’s kind of ridiculous,” said Jose Suarez, an 1199SEIU spokesman. “This is obviously a profitable company.”

Earlier in the day, speaking by phone as he traveled to Ocala from Miami, Suarez said the 50 to 60 union members at The Lodge and the rest of its employees “want to be respected for what they do.” He noted that the lowest starting wage at the Ocala facility is $7.79 per hour for a housekeeper.

“They’re caregivers,” he said. “I’m not trying to knock another career, but they’re not flipping burgers. They’re caring for our loved ones in these nursing homes.”

Union members also say Greystone’s staffing levels at The Lodge are inadequate, which affects patient care.

Officials with The Lodge and Greystone did not interact with the protesters as of mid-afternoon Thursday, but some did watch the demonstration from the railing of an overlooking building, including Terrie Banks, interim administrator, and Tricia Robinson, regional director of operations for Greystone.

Speaking in an office away from the demonstration, Banks would not address the pay issue.

“I am not involved in union negotiations,” she said. Asked who is, Banks and Robertson declined to say.

When asked about staffing, Banks replied, “We staff to state requirements.” She gave examples of 2.5 certified nursing assistants per patient per day and 1 licensed nurse per patient per day.

“We staff at or above that daily,” Banks said.

Meanwhile, Greystone officials have sent employees letters concerning the union’s protests. One, given to the Star-Banner by Suarez, was signed by “Teresa Evans, Vice President, Human Resources,” and another, furnished by Banks, had her signature Some, but not all, of the passages in the two letters have identical wording:

“The Union seems more interested in playing childish games with tweets and Facebook posts,” one reads.

For their part, the demonstrators were orderly, if boisterous. One man wielded a bullhorn as he led the call-and-response chants. Other picketers waved noisemakers fashioned from empty milk jugs filled with handful of pennies. As the lights changed at 17th and Lake Weir, drivers honked occasionally and some people waved from cars.

The demonstrators included Gloria Weems, a certified nursing assistant who has been a member of the union in its various forms for the 25 years she has worked at the facility.

“Most of us are the family for these residents,” Weems said. “We try to make sure they get the best quality care we can provide, but we all got families, and everything’s going up from the gas prices and everything. We deserve a raise.”

The picketers were not limited to current employees. Diana Rivera said she retired from The Lodge last year as a certified nursing assistant after 36 years, but she was at the demonstration “to help them because I know they need the help.”

When asked how hard the employees work, Rivera replied “Total hell half the time. Total hell. Push, push, push. It’s terrible.”

Liz Surdam, a housekeeper and a union steward, attended the protest despite having had surgery Monday and being off work under the Family Medical Leave Act. Surdam sat in a folding chair and said while she was in a little pain, she wanted to show support. When asked what the company could offer that would make her happy, Surdam replied, “In all honesty, we’d like a dollar, but hey, if we can get a quarter, we’ll be happy with that.”

The demonstration drew onlookers, including at least one resident. Melvin Goodman, 54, lost a leg to diabetes and gets around by means of a prosthetic and a motorized scooter.

“I came out to watch the picketing,” said Goodman, a onetime non-union trucker. “People say they put too much money in this building and they only gave them people a dime raise. That ain’t fair. Treat these people fairly.”

Thursday’s demonstration was a rare show of union presence in Marion County. 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East — affiliated with the Service Employees International Union — has some 400,000 members in an Eastern Seaboard region ranging from New York to Florida. The union’s Florida Division, which began around 2000 with some 1,000 members, now has about 25,000, Suarez said. Because of the size of the health care industry in Marion County, the area is seen as a fertile ground for organization, he said.

Greystone’s Robinson, on the other hand, downplayed the union’s showing outside The Lodge on Thursday.

“It has no impact,” she said. “We will continue to provide the best quality care, day in and day out.”

Contact Richard Anguiano at 867-4104 or

from the Center for Popular Economics

Whose Recovery?

Posted by  on February 18th, 2014

by Jerry Friedman

Whose Recovery

There is a story that when the late union leader Walter Reuther was given a tour of a GM plant, a manager introduced him to a set of the company’s new robots.  The manager challenged Reuther to say how he would organize the robots into the UAW.  The union leader supposedly responded by asking: how will General Motors sell cars to the robots?  While American unions have failed to organize the workers in the new economy’s factories, its capitalists seem to have figured out a good answer to Reuther’s question.

We shouldn’t be surprised that conservative politicians and orthodox economists are calling for the Federal Reserve to end its program of monetary ease and for the Federal government to end its program of extended unemployment insurance.  Believing in Say’s Law and the virtues of unregulated markets, they have never been comfortable with state action to help the unemployed; instead, they have long argued that the only proper role for government is to protect price stability and the integrity of banking system.

What should surprise us is that so few in the business community are pushing back against these ideologues in support of policies to bolster economic growth and employment.  Robert Reich asks whether capitalists and managers have forgotten the basic Fordist compromise, in which businesses rely on affluent workers to consume their products?[1]  If a rising tide lifts all boats, don’t capitalists benefit when unemployment falls and workers have more to spend?  And shouldn’t they support policies that bring the tide in?

They don’t because American capitalists have learned to profit from recession.  They have so well insulated their economic fortunes from the rest of us, that they no longer depend on rising wages and growing effective demand to maintain profitability.  The “recovery” from the Great Recession of 2008 has been different from past recoveries, because it has been led by profits, which have grown even though economic growth has been relatively slow, and employment and wages have stagnated.  Four years into the “recovery,” the GDP has grown at an anemic 2.4% per annum, the slowest growth rate of any post-war recovery and less than half that of the recovery in the 1960s.  Since the recession bottomed out in 2009, job creation has been only a third the rate of past recoveries.  Compared with past recoveries, this one is short 8 million jobs and the employment ratio, the share of the adult population with jobs, has fallen back to the level of the early 1970s, down 5 percentage points from 2008.

Those who call for the Federal Reserve to reverse course and urge Congress to cut programs to help the jobless cite the declining unemployment rate, which is down a third from its peak in 2009.  While declining unemployment is a good thing, much of the decline in the unemployment rate is because 10 million people have left the labor force.  The number of discouraged workers remains above its late 2009 level, while the number of unemployed workers per job opening has fallen only slightly from its 2009 peak (see Figure 1).  With the weight of unemployed and underemployed workers on the job market, wages have remained stagnant in this recovery despite rising productivity, continuing a decades-long trend.

Despite slow economic growth, little job creation, and stagnant wages, some parts of the economy have boomed: the stock market and corporate profits.  After dramatic drops early in the recession, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen to new highs, growing in real terms significantly faster than in past recoveries.  While there may be some speculative element to the run-up in the Dow, it is well-supported by corporate profits, which have recovered fully from a sharp fall when the recession began to renew a 30 year climb (see Figure 2).

At least for now, American capitalists have solved the problem that bedeviled their Fordist forebears.  They have found ways to profit even when their workers cannot buy their stuff.  Since 2009, inflation-adjusted spending by the top 5% has risen 17 percent, compared with an anemic 1 percent among the rest.[2]  While Sears and J.C. Penney drift towards bankruptcy, Nordstrom and other luxury brands flourish.  Rather than depending on sales to working-class and middle-class consumers American corporations are doing very well selling to rich consumers, here and abroad.  Rather than promising workers high wages to ensure productivity, they maintain labor discipline through fear.

It seems that capitalists and managers have found answer to Reuther’s question. Business can’t sell stuff to robots, but they don’t need to sell stuff to workers either.

[1] “Why The Three Biggest Economic Lessons Were Forgotten,” accessed February 13, 2014,

[2] Nelson D. Schwartz, “The Middle Class Is Steadily Eroding. Just Ask the Business World.,” The New York Times, February 2, 2014,; Barry Z. Cynamon and Steven M. Fazzari, Inequality, the Great Recession, and Slow Recovery, SSRN Scholarly Paper (Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network, January 23, 2014),