SEIU Healthcare Michigan will strike towards SKLD Bloomfield Hills nursing residence

Operations at Michigan’s largest healthcare union are in turmoil as it prepares to launch a workers’ strike against a Bloomfield Hills nursing home.

SEIU Healthcare Michigan, which represents more than 17,000 healthcare workers in the state, plans to start a strike Monday at 7 a.m. after negotiations with SKLD Bloomfield Hills leadership collapsed.

The union claims workers at the facility have faced insecure staffing (number of workers per patient) and low wages. The fight against management has garnered strong support from leading Democrats in the state, including US Reps Debbie Dingell, Rashida Tlaib and Andy Levin.

“Our nation’s caregivers — mostly women and people of color — are doing whatever they can to care for those most in need, but far too many are not receiving the pay and benefits to match their jobs,” Dingell said in a statement. “No carer should have to live below the poverty line to provide the critical care our seniors and people with disabilities rely on. SKLD leaders must respect workers’ rights to join a union and have a voice at work. I stand in solidarity with those fighting for a better future for their residents and their families.”

The 181-bed nursing home is owned by Illuminate HC, a for-profit company that operates nursing homes in Bloomfield Hills, West Bloomfield, Livonia, Plymouth, Grand Rapids, Ionia, Muskegon and Whitehall. Illuminate took over management of the nine homes from HCR ManorCare and changed the name to Heartland’s SKLD.

Nursing homes have been at rock bottom since the pandemic began because of low wages and ongoing staff shortages.

Nursing homes in the US have cut about 235,000 jobs since March 2020, the AARP said last month.

At the beginning of this year there were 8,000 vacancies in nursing homes nationwide. On Tuesday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported that 30 percent of skilled nursing facilities in the state are reporting a nursing staff shortage and 31 percent are reporting a shortage of assistants.

The shortage of staff in nursing homes led to full hospitals and thus to a supply bottleneck in the entire industry.

In December, Whitmer signed an executive order establishing the Michigan Nursing Home Workforce Stabilization Council to develop and recommend policies that could improve staffing levels in long-term care facilities.

But internal disputes at SEIU Healthcare Michigan go beyond wages and shortages.

In April, the national Service Employees International Union condemned SEIU Healthcare Michigan’s leadership for infighting and poor financial accounting, and installed an emergency trustee to oversee operations for the second time in recent years. In 2017, the restaurant was placed in trust due to financial misconduct.

Neither the national organization of the SEIU nor the local organization responded to inquiries about this.

In a letter to SEIU Healthcare Michigan members, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry wrote, “I have determined the need to place Healthcare Michigan in an emergency trust based on reasonable allegations of serious financial misconduct and the lack of fundamental internal financial controls and accounting practices at the church, a breakdown in democratic process at the church, and the inability of the top elected leaders of the church to work together to correct these serious problems and fulfill their constitutional obligations to administer and oversee the work of the church for the benefit of meet the local and HCMI members.”

Henry said in the letter that the inability to correct the financial accounts stemmed from a “long-simmering conflict” between Andrea Acevedo, president of SEIU Healthcare Michigan, and Ken Haney, executive vice president.

In addition to the two trusteeships, the local resident was involved in a dues skim practice in the 2000s. SEIU lobbied the state to set up an agency to act as an ad hoc employer for home nurses, which the union then unionized without some workers even knowing. Between 2000 and 2012, home health workers in the state reportedly funneled $34 million to the union from payments they received from Medicaid.

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