VENICE, Fla. (WFLA) – Caregivers from Bay Breeze Health and Rehab are on strike for 24 hours, demanding a wage increase to $15 an hour. The caregivers are members of the healthcare union, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.
Thousands of employees are on strike at 19 different Florida nursing homes operated by Consulate Health Care. Organizers are calling this one of the largest strikes in the Southeast in more than a decade.
These workers say they’re advocating for better working conditions and a higher minimum wage.
“I’m unhappy with the wages. The wages are not enough. We can’t afford to take care of our families with what they’re offering us,” Certified Nursing Assistant Tamara Burns said.
Workers told 8 On Your Side they work long hours to care for the residents and yet can barely afford to pay their bills.
“We deserve $15 an hour. The minimum starting wage is $9.50. And that’s just not enough for most people to survive … They can’t pay their rent. Some of them are on welfare. Some of them are on some sort of government assistance, and they need $15 so they can come off of that and take good care of their family,” CNA Amy Runkle said.
The striking workers are picketing in front of the Bay Breeze Health and Rehab facility for 24 hours straight.
Some of the nursing home residents are supporting them. Resident Lidabelle Wines spent hours outside in the heat in a wheelchair.
“They care for us, so we gotta care for them,” Wines said. “They’re family. They’re all good people. So I’m with them, and they need (better wages) and I need them.”
A spokesperson for Consulate Health Care released the following statement:
“While we are disappointed in the union’s decision to strike, the continuity of patient and resident care will remain unaffected thanks to the combined efforts of our dedicated staff and compassionate fellow care center volunteers. We will continue to work in good faith, as we have always done, towards a resolution.”
The caregivers tell 8 On Your Side that they’re disappointed that they have to resort to a strike, but they’re hoping their message will be heard. Runkle said, “We need to be able to take care of our families too, our families can’t continue to suffer while other people are just making money.”
The strikers are joining in solidarity with millions of workers across the country during the National Day of Action for the Fight for $15 campaign.
Many workers across the nation are demanding $15 an hour. They feel bolstered after New York and California passed measures increasing their minimum wages to $15.