Springfield Nursing Home Workers Form Union

On December 14, more than 300 nursing home workers in Springfield voted to form a union. They work for Sullivan and Associates Corporation. The voted workers voted 190 to 94 to join the Service Employees union www.seiu509.org Two dozen workers' votes are being disputed by the company or the union.

Union workers in the U.S. make more money than nonunion workers, 29 percent more. That’s $9,300 a year extra for the average worker who joins a union. For Latino workers, the union advantage is 50 percent; for black workers, 31 percent.

Unions aren’t just about money; having a union means companies must have "just cause" for firing a worker. Companies don’t have to give a reason for firing a nonunion worker.

Still, almost 90 percent of workers in Western Massachusetts—and a similar percentage nationally—do not belong to a union, and most companies do their best to keep it that way. While workers are discussing forming a union, a quarter of employers illegally fire union supporters; more than half threaten to shut down and lay off all their workers; and three-quarters hire anti-union law firms to fight their workers. That’s according to research by Cornell University professor Kate Bronfenbrenner.

The labor movement’s critics say many union leaders are corrupt, and their members are selfish and greedy. But so are leaders of companies like Enron and Halliburton; at least union members can vote their leaders out of office. As for being greedy and selfish, unions have spent millions of dollars of their members’ money lobbying for increases in the minimum wage, which helps all workers, union and nonunion alike.

The argument about greed and selfishness cuts two ways. The richest 1 percent of Americans now own more wealth than the bottom 95 percent of us combined. Last year, almost 20 percent of Americans had a net worth of zero or less. (That’s not including mortgages—if you include mortgages, the percentage of Americans in debt is much higher.)

That’s about wealth. Here’s a stat for income. In 1980, more than 20 percent of the private sector workforce in the U.S. belonged to unions. At that time, the ratio of average large-company CEO pay to worker pay was 42 to 1. By 2000, only 8 percent of private sector workers belonged to a union, and the ratio of average large-company CEO pay to worker pay was 525 to 1. Last year, the average large-company CEO made $12 million. The average worker made $27,460.

In Europe, where a far higher percentage of workers belong to unions, the ratio of CEO pay to worker pay was 25 to 1 last year.


Sullivan & Associates has

Sullivan & Associates has group homes and dayhab programs in Pittsfield, Springfield and Worcester. They don't have nursing homes, it’s a common misunderstanding.

Ninfa Breton

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