While employees at nearby secular competitors earn a living wage, food service employees at Our Lady of Peace Nursing Home in Lewiston New York earn the legal minimum in their community and CNAs earn scarcely more. That’s the main reason employees of the nursing home held a one-day strike in March.
The workers, represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), walked off the job for a single day on March 9. They have now resumed bargaining with nursing home, owned by the St. Louis-based Ascension Health Care.
Catholic Social Teaching calls for every worker to receive a living wage. The legal minimum wage in upstate New York is set at $13.20 per hour, or approximately $26,400 per year for a full-time employee.
Theresa Tomlin, an 11-year CNA at Our Lady of Peace, said “I have to pick up double shifts to survive. Other aides are on public assistance or have taken second jobs. People are fighting to make ends meet.”
“I’ve thought about leaving but what keeps me there are the residents. They are like family to me.”
The low wages at the facility aren’t only a problem because of Catholic Social Teaching. Employees at the facility say that staffing shortages have become severe. With nearby competitors offering wages that are $1-5/hour higher than at Our Lady of Peace, they say, it’s impossible to recruit workers.
“We all used to love it here. Not so much anymore – we are unable to give residents the care they deserve because of understaffing,” said Tresa Torcasio, a 12-year nurse at the facility and parishioner at nearby St. John’s. “You can’t get people in if they can make more money someplace else.”