Tag Archives: local 100

DOL Takes Paid Leave Away from Low Wage Healthcare Workers

New Orleans     This is complicated, so hang with me, but here is what you need to know.

  • Nursing home workers and other frontline healthcare providers like home health aides, and community home workers for the differently able account for perhaps the largest portion of the death count, as we pass 200,000 fatalities nationally from Covid-19.
  • Many of these workers are among the lowest paid service workers in the country.
  • A vast proportion of these workers are women and members of minority and ethnic groups.
  • Most of these workers do not have health insurance provided for them as employees and certainly not for their families.

Are you with me so far?  These are workers who need all the support we can give them during this pandemic.  Local 100 represents a bunch of these workers in Louisiana and other states.

Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) earlier this year.  Among its many provisions there was an Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) that provided two weeks of paid leave, reimbursed by the government to the employer, for workers forced to take off because of the virus, either to quarantine or for other reasons.   Given the paucity of benefits along these lines, this was literally a lifesaver for many lower waged healthcare workers in these facilities who usually had such skinny sick leave provisions that they would have been forced to work sick or hide symptoms, possible endangering themselves and the patients under their care.

A New York-based federal judge has struck down some of the Department of Labor regulations that determined eligibility and utilization of the leave.  Recently, the DOL issued new regulations for implementing Families First until the end of the year.  Some of what employers sought, the DOL fixed for them as a matter of simple clarification:  no paid leave, if no paid work; prior notice to employer required to take leave; and verification of sickness to employer.   More disturbingly, the new regulations expanded significantly the definition of “health providers” that would not be eligible for the paid leave.  Where before it was doctors, nurse practitioners, and emergency responders among others without whom there would have be no functioning healthcare system anywhere, now the DOL swept up everyone else in direct and indirect patient care and specifically enumerated nurses, LPNs, nursing home aides, home health aides, and others, all the way to lab techs that might be processing the Covid tests.

How is this not a forced-work provision for all of these workers on the frontlines?  The public can applaud and thank them, but for the vast majority, they will have to work – and work sick – to protect their paychecks, risking their own lives, their patients and clients, and the community itself, because of financial necessity.

Why is this a gift to employers?  We have all read stories of nurses being paid double and triple their normal wages to maintain staff ratios at hospitals.  Our union was able to negotiate pandemic pay for a number of these workers as facilities had to finally step up in order to staffed up.  No matter the intention of the policy to protect the healthcare system, the effect of the policy will be forced work, not healthcare to benefit employers, and certainly not workers or patients.

The DOL’s regulations added that nothing in this new rule, effective until the end of the year, would prevent a worker from taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, but of course there is a huge difference.  Families First paid for up to two weeks of leave, and FMLA is leave without pay.

This may have seemed complicated in the beginning, but now I’ll bet it is pretty easy to understand.

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The Nursing Home Business Model is Deadly

Pearl River     Nursing homes have been a huge source of deaths in the United States during the coronavirus pandemic.  Local 100 represents a number of private and public homes, as well as other healthcare facilities, so has been with our workers at the razor edge.  On a monthly basis, we continue to deliver PPE to facilities generally and where our members worth throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas, thanks to NOLAPPE Last Mile Every discussion we have with employers is contentious about everything from hazardous pay to PPE to frankness in sharing information on patient and consumer tests to OSHA health and safety standards.  We win some, and we lose some from company to company.  That’s been the way it has been 35 years, but this time the stakes are higher than the pay envelope, and the story is sometimes front-page news.

For all of those years, I’ve been telling our leaders, members, and organizers, that they needed to understand that in the eyes of our for-profit, corporate home ownership we were as much a real estate enterprise, not as a health care endeavor.  For most of them, as long as reimbursement rates from the government were good enough to break a bit better than even and they were able to lard their salaries and expenses onto the cost reports, they were hoping the appreciation of the real property in buildings and land underneath the hospital beds would be enough for them to make their killing.  Often, they would roll their eyes, because it seemed too cynical and hyperbolic for many.

With the pandemic death count, the corporate business model is being exposed.  Andrew Cockburn wrote a devastating piece in Harper’s called “Elder Abuse:  Nursing Homes, the Coronavirus”, and the bottom line, confirming in most ways our decades of experiences.  He noted that by late June there were 55,000 deaths in such homes, not counting that “one in five homes didn’t bother to report the numbers at all,” and none of them were required to report before May 8th.  That’s the effect.  The cause, as Cockburn documented, is often found in some of the 21st century adaptations of their basic business model thanks to REITs and private equity, which have stripped the assets, made sure that wages for the same work in hospitals were significantly lower in homes, stretched staffing past care standards, and stripped costs past the bone on everything from supplies to food for clients.  All true.  In one of our Shreveport homes they only had two face shields for the entire home until we delivered more, so they washed them as best they could to share from worker to worker, shift to shift.  We had an ownership change in recent years when a REIT holding other homes in the same area essentially foreclosed on the management company unable to make their predatory leasing terms.

Cockburn is critical but can hardly hide his amazement at the prowess of their lobbying skills in the states and with the Trump administration that they have been able to spin their way to getting billions rationalizing the pandemic for their slash and burn nursing home business model.  More than 20 states have already absolved them of liability for the deaths and inadequacies of care, and the Senate is trying to do the same for them and others.  The Wall Street Journal reported recently that the handpicked commission they had wheedled from the Trump team was preparing to report on more of the companies’ woes, while letting them tap into another $5 billion until they can get more in the next stimulus package.

The Journal also updated the reported death count in homes at over 70,000 accounting for 40% of US deaths from the virus now.  It turns out we do have death panels, as the Republicans argued in opposing the Affordable Care Act, but instead they are called commissions, and rather than demand reform in the homes and advocate regulations to put an end to the killing fields inherent in this business model, they just ask for more supplies and money without looking at the causes behind this catastrophe in name of healthcare.

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