Looking to publicize negotiations with several area nursing homes, 20 healthcare workers and union personnel picketed Oak Park Healthcare, 625 N. Harlem Ave. on Friday, March 4. Hal Ruddick, trustee for Service Workers Employees International Union Local 4, which represents workers at Oak Park Healthcare and the Woodbine Center in Oak Park, as well as the 232 bed Pavilion of Forest Park facility at 8200 W. Roosevelt Road, among other locations, said the employees are demanding raises in wages and protesting a proposed 50 percent cut in healthcare benefits.
Mary Barlow (pictured above), a certified nursing assistant and a member of the contract negotiating team, said she has worked at Oak Park Healthcare for 24 years. That length of experience allows her to earn $12 per hour. That, she said, is more than the $8 per hour beginning CNAs earn, but less than she feels she's entitled to.
"That's after 24 years," she said. "I think I could be making more."
Asked how she sees the negotiations proceeding, she said, "Terrible. They're not talking about what we need to be talking about. They're talking about pension and 401(k). They haven't talked about wages in a long time."
Ruddick echoed that sense of frustration Friday, saying that the gap between the two sides remains "very wide." Management, he said, doesn't appear willing to "provide the increases in wages that would help decrease employee turnover and improve quality of care."
The current contract has been extended for a third time, until March 15. Negotiating sessions are scheduled for today, March 9, and March 14.