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Staff strike at nursing homes

Workers at facilities owned by Priority Healthcare hit the picket lines Friday morning.

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — It's day one of the strike for nursing home staff at 14 facilities across the state, including four here in our area.

At the Gardens at Wyoming Valley in Wilkes-Barre, dozens of people have signs in hand and have been picketing since 6 a.m. Friday.

Union representatives say some facilities in our area reached tentative agreements ahead of the strike date, but others, like the Gardens at Wyoming Valley and the Gardens at East Mountain in Luzerne County, are on the picket lines.

"I was on a call last night from 10 a.m. yesterday to quarter till 12 last night, and we got nowhere," said local union president Toby Kibbler.

These workers are not alone in the fight. Across Pennsylvania, 14 facilities under two of the state's largest nursing home chains are on strike over what they call unfair labor practices.

In Luzerne County, the Gardens at East Mountain and the Gardens at Wyoming Valley in Luzerne County are owned by one of those chains — Priority Healthcare.

"We all work hard, and we should be paid for it. You know, we all have families. We've been through the pandemic. I mean, we are still going through it, and we should be paid for it and treated right. We are humans, not just a number," said a worker on the picket line.

Staff members on strike tell Newswatch 16 they didn't want to walk off the job, but they feel their demands for better pay, health care benefits, and working conditions haven't been met through several rounds of negotiations

"We are 100 percent hard workers in this building. They call us, we come in. We work 16-hour shifts. this Girl over here has been here since 2 p.m. yesterday. Worked a complete double, and she is still here fighting for what we all deserve," Kibbler said.

"It's just frustrating; I am angry, sad especially because of the patients because they suffer the most, and that's what we are here for, fighting for them so that we can give them the best care."

In a statement from the Gardens at East Mountain in Plains Township, officials say, in part:

"We want the public to know that we did not want our employees to follow the union and abandon their jobs. We believe it is irresponsible in these challenging times. Most importantly, we are fully staffed and providing care to our residents."

No additional bargaining sessions are on the table.

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