Fed up with negotiations, Crown Center employees take to streets

CORTLAND, N.Y. – More than 50 employees at the Crown Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation held an informational picket Wednesday to protest a labor contract they say fails to offer affordable health insurance and fair wages for employees.

Workers and management began negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement in May but have been unable to reach a new contract, according to union representatives.

Crown Center employees demonstrated on a sidewalk outside the Crown Center facility on Kellogg Road. Protesters held signs that read "Wages not Wealth" and "United We Bargain, Divided We Beg."

Employees at the facility are represented by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, one of the largest healthcare unions in the United States.

Brandon Hays, a certified nursing assistant at Crown Center, says management has been unwilling to make compromises during the negotiation process.

"We're writing proposals back and forth, and they keep their proposals the same," Hays said.

Workers also contend that proposals submitted my management fail to increase standards in the nursing home or share the burden of rising insurance costs.

crown center protest

Crown Center employees protest outside the nursing facility on Kellogg Road Wednesday afternoon (Peter Blanchard/Cortland Voice)

Related: Cortland health care workers plan picket to protest labor standards

New York State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton expressed her support for the employees in a letter sent to Crown Center management last week.

"I am hearing that there are long-term workers who are making barely over minimum wage, employees are asked to pay a large portion of their healthcare costs, and that workers have concerns with issues of respect and dignity in the workplace," Lifton said. "I strongly believe, and I'm sure you do as well, that fairly compensated workers that are treated well in the workpalce deliver highest quality care to the residents of a facility and help create a better community for all."

Patrick M. Deptula, administrator at Crown Center, said management will continue to work with union representatives during the negotiations process to meet the interests of employees and the center's residents.

"Crown Center is committed to further negotiations with 1199SEIU in the interest of arriving at a mutually acceptable settlement of the pending labor contract negotiations," Deptula said in an email to The Cortland Voice. "Any settlement needs to reflect the need to manage costs in light of changes in Federal and State funding to health care facilities and to ensure that increased labor costs do not result in a reduction in staffing."

Both parties plan to return to the bargaining table July 31.


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