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St. Louis nursing home workers back on job after strike over wages, safety

Workers accusing management of a St. Louis nursing home of unfair labor practices returned to work Tuesday morning after walking out last week. 

Their union, SEIU Healthcare Missouri, released a statement after the end of the strike, which sought to secure higher wages and levels of staffing and stronger safety protocols for workers at Blue Circle Rehab and Nursing, which has a history of deficiencies identified by federal regulators. 

The workers called for investigations by St. Louis and St. Louis County into Blue Circle and two other nursing homes with similar ownership: Chestnut Rehab and Nursing and Big Bend Woods Healthcare Center.

“I am proud of my coworkers for coming together and demanding the respect, protection and pay we all deserve,” said Lemarr Young, a floor tech of 20 years. “Our fight doesn’t end as we go back to work. We will keep calling on the owners of Blue Circle to keep workers and patients safe, pay workers what we deserve and treat workers with dignity and respect.” 

The Blue Circle strike comes amid contract negotiations between SEIU and Blue Circle Holdings, LLC. Negotiations began last year, but the two sides have yet to reach an agreement. The workers want higher wages, better health insurance and a health and safety committee where employees can advocate for things like more personal protective equipment or additional shift bonuses. 

At the same time, the striking workers asked for an investigation into the facilities, which have lower staffing numbers than average, according to data kept by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

During a health inspection last year, regulators identified 31 deficiencies at Blue Circle and fined the facility $23,595. 

In the press release, Lenny Jones, state director and vice president of SEIU Healthcare Missouri, said the union would be watching to ensure striking workers are “welcomed back without retribution.” 

“Blue Circle must also address all outstanding unfair labor practice charges currently filed against them, and we continue our call for St. Louis City and County officials to investigate the deficiencies at area nursing homes owned by the Blue Circle owners,” Jones said. “The frontline workers and residents of Blue Circle deserve owners who will bargain in good faith and give workers the respect, protection, and pay they deserve.”

Blue Circle’s administrator did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday afternoon. 

This article by Allison Kite is published from The Missouri Independent through a Creative Commons license.

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