Healthcare union picket for better wages and benefits amidst contract dispute in Ithaca

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ITHACA, N.Y. (WETM) — On Oct. 27, members of the United Healthcare Workers East union picketed outside of the Cayuga Ridge Nursing and Rehabilitation Center demanding better wages and benefits.

Austin Holochak, acting administrator at Cayuga Ridge, said dating back to March 2020, the union failed to meet their deadline to request to negotiate their contract. The contract was extended for one year and now they have been at the negotiation table since March 2021.

“The biggest issue is we’re trying to get our pension, our health insurance, and our longevities and bonuses that have been denied,” said Johnny Wright, healthcare worker at Cayuga Ridge.

Holochak said the current facility has been renovated and the previous contract was outdated.

“It’s a very old contract,” said Holochak. “What we’re trying to do is rejuvenate the contract to make it make sense for this present facility.”

Holochak said he understands the union members’ complaints and he is on their side for most of the issues.

“We’re trying to modernize this contract and have it make sense,” said Holochak. “[We want to pay] wages that the staff members deserve and bring in additional employees to care for the residents.”

Wright said they are about to become minimum wage workers, which is unfair since they deal with delicate people at the end of their life.

“Let’s settle this contract immediately,” said Wright.

The nursing and rehab center plans to meet with the union and finalize a contract by mid-November.

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