Communications Coordinator, SEA/SEIU Local 1984
Monday, Sept. 30, 2019
BRENTWOOD, NH – Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders rallied workers from Rockingham County Rehabilitation and Nursing Center this afternoon in support of their efforts to form a union.
Workers at the county nursing home are set to vote Thursday on whether to organize a union with SEA/SEIU Local 1984. Sen. Sanders is the second presidential hopeful to visit the worksite in recent days, following Andrew Yang on Friday. In addition, Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have issued words of support on social media.
SEA President Rich Gulla welcomed the crowd at Monday’s event by spelling out what’s at stake.
“Workers from this nursing home approached the SEA because they wanted a stronger voice in their workplace – to improve not only their own lives but the care of their patients, as well,” Gulla said. “A union will give them a stronger voice and the ability to deliver the level of care that Rockingham County residents deserve.”
Steve Gontarz has worked at the nursing home for two years and introduced Sen. Sanders on Monday.
“I have the pleasure of working with some very skilled and passionate people who, through no stretch of the imagination, love their work as much as I do,” Gontarz said. “The job we do as caretakers of the elderly is very rewarding, and some of the work we do – well let’s just say, it’s not for everybody. The people that I work with deserve respect and dignity.”
Sen. Sanders kept his remarks brief and instead focused the attention on the workers, who had lined up behind him. One of those workers, Jennifer Winiarz said that short-staffing makes it difficult for her and her colleagues to deliver the kind of care that the patients deserve.
“There are nights when we’re short staffed and we’re running around all night, and you go home feeling like crap because you didn’t give significant care to any of the people and you feel like you did nothing the whole night,” she said. “It’s sad – it takes away from the residents and it takes away from us. We just want to see good things for the residents here and for my fellow employees.”
SEA/SEIU Local 1984 represents thousands of workers across the state, including the staff of the nursing homes in Belknap and Strafford counties, as well as the state’s Veterans’ Home and Glencliff Home for the Elderly.