Michigan nursing home workers at six sites plan July 20 walkout

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Frustrated with working conditions, nursing home employees at six facilities in Metro Detroit are planning a brief strike during the COVID-19 pandemic on July 20.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Michigan announced Friday the strike will last one hour at five of the facilities and two hours at the other.

The demonstration, which is part of a national walkout called "Strike for Black Lives," comes as nursing homes have been linked to 34% of the COVID-19 deaths in Michigan. The union's announcement referenced a Detroit News review of hundreds of pages of nursing home inspections that showed facilities rationing personal protective equipment, struggling to isolate residents and going without tests for the virus.

Protesters, including Jonathan Nunoo, left, of Westland, practice social distancing as they participate in a protest in front of the Ambassador Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on E. Jefferson in Detroit, Thursday afternoon, April 9, 2020. SEIU Healthcare Michigan President Andrea Acevedo sent a letter detailing the conditions at Ambassador. Now, SEIU is rallying community members to show support of nursing home workers affected by the situation.

"Here in Detroit, us nursing home workers are at the center of the COVID-19 crisis," said Trece Andrews, a nursing home worker at Regency at St. Claire Shores. "We’re putting our lives on the line every single day without proper PPE (personal protective equipment), paid sick days or fully paid testing because facility owners treat us as disposable, not essential."

Andrews added in a press release, "I’ve seen firsthand how this virus is devastating the Black community, exposing the systemic racism that has always existed.That’s why I’m going on Strike for Black Lives: to demand greater protections for my coworkers, our residents and working people across the nation."

The strike will feature hundreds of workers from Hartford Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Lodge at Taylor, Regency at Taylor, Villa at Great Lakes Crossing, Villa at City Center and Regency at St. Clair Shores, according to a press release.

Nursing home officials have said they've been trying to make the best of a bad situation during the pandemic.

As of Thursday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services tracked 2,010 COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents and 21 deaths among staff.