Guest Columns

Nursing home jobs should be living wage jobs

Matt Yarnell
Matt Yarnell

As reported by McKnight's, on November 5, the Keystone Research Center in Pennsylvania released its new report – Nursing Home Jobs That Pay.

The report provides in-depth evidence that many nursing home workers are forced to live in poverty and rely on public assistance to make ends meet.

Based on data provided by the state, the KRC found that nearly 15,000 nursing home workers receive public assistance for low-income families through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, or both. That is nearly one in six nursing home workers in Pennsylvania, and nearly one in three of those workers is paid less than $15 per hour. The estimated taxpayer cost of this assistance is $118 million annually.

Here is what one nursing home worker, Tisheia Frazier, said during a press conference held by the KRC:

“After 10 years, I only make $11.45 and I depend on public assistance to get by. I get $200 per month in food stamps. I have heating assistance in the winter and our apartment is part of a low-income housing program. It's heartbreaking to work full time and barely be above the poverty line.”

This has to stop – it's not good for workers and it's not good for our residents.

I began my career in 1998 as a nurse aide and I saw then that continuity of care was absolutely critical to providing good care. I saw that too many nurse aides would come into the building and leave after a couple weeks or months because the work was so hard and the wages so low.

If we are serious about providing the highest quality care for our residents, then we have to back our rhetoric with action. It means we have to provide living wages to caregivers to cut down on turnover, to not force caregivers to work excessive overtime and double shifts. It is about not forcing workers to have to look to the state for public assistance to provide for their families.

How we treat the workforce in our nursing homes is a reflection of how we treat our residents. If providers refuse to invest in living wages, then we should challenge their commitment to quality care.

Matt Yarnell is the Executive Vice President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, the state's largest union for healthcare workers.

 

SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania is the state's largest union for healthcare workers,

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