Pandemic experience informs health care workers’ agenda

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BOSTON (SHNS) – A year ago, with pressure mounting on the state’s medical system, health care workers were gearing up for the COVID-19 pandemic’s first surge in Massachusetts.

Now, members of the health care workers union 1199SEIU are seeking a slate of policies intended to address issues spotlighted over the past year. The union is advocating for what it calls the Healthcare Heroes Bill of Rights — described as “essential wages, quality benefits, appropriate staffing & care team planning, responsible employers, safe work environment, educational opportunities & career advancement, a seat at the table [and] the right to form a union.”

Some of the measures would involve state or federal legislation, while others are topics for the bargaining tables, said Tim Foley, executive vice president of 1199SEIU. He said the goal is to “make sure that people that we call heroes are also taken care of.” “Really, at the end of the day, what they want is to be protected, respected and paid,” Foley said. He said the union plans to advocate for a uniform approach to licensing home care agencies, increased staffing standards at nursing homes, and funding for community hospitals and safety-net providers.

Among legislation 1199SEIU is backing are bills from Sen. Cindy Friedman and Rep. Jon Santiago that aim to bolster emergency preparedness for home care workers, including through the establishment of hazard pay metrics (SD 1130/HD 3403); bills from Sen. Julian Cyr and Rep. Liz Malia that look to strengthen workers’ voice in hospital care planning (SD 1244/HD 3860); and bills from Sen. Paul Feeney and Rep. Ruth Balser that would require an average of minimum of at least four hours a day of productive nursing care from a nurse or certified nursing assistant per nursing home resident (SD 609/HD 1357). 

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