After 42 Test Positive for COVID-19, Nurses in Western PA Walk Off Job

PITTSBURGH, PA – On Thursday, dozens of nurses, members of SEIU Healthcare PA, walked off at the Brighton Rehab and Wellness Center in Western Pennsylvania’s Beaver County. 

The walk-off came after 36 elderly residents and six healthcare workers at the nursing home tested positive for COVID-19. Already, two senior citizens at the facility have died of COVID-19. 

Nurses at the facility say that they haven’t been given N-95 masks to wear around residents. After days of the union being rebuffed in its attempt to meet with management to discuss safety issues and hazard pay, nurses on the job walked off on Wednesday. 

“Financially, I probably shouldn’t make that decision, but it’s not about finances. It’s about my health and another person’s health,” Nurse Tamera Witherspoon told CBS Pittsburgh. 

The union says that it won’t go back in until they get proper protective equipment for the staff at Brighton Rehab. 

“These workers and residents deserve nothing less, we would never send our troops into a war without their helmet, gun, and boots,” said SEIU Healthcare President Matthew Yarnell. 

The strike comes as the Trump administration killed a provision in the new COVID-19 bailout package that would have forced OSHA to institute an emergency rule standard to protect healthcare workers from COVID-19.

The provision was killed at the bequest of the American Hospital Association. Now, many frontline healthcare workers say they lack basic protective equipment.

Increasingly, frontline workers from healthcare to warehouses to manufacturing are walking off the job across the country to protest unsafe working conditions. 

With a lack of federal regulations, SEIU Healthcare PA says that its willing to take action into its own hands to force employers to protect frontline healthcare workers. 

“It’s going to take all of you to make sure we are never in this position again,” SEIU Healthcare PA President Matthew Yarnell wrote on his Facebook page to his members.

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About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter who covered everything from Lula & the Brazilian labor movement to major league baseball. He spent years covering union organizing in the South for The Guardian and was labeled by the New York Times as an "abrasive gadfly" for exposing within the labor movement. Raised in a UE union family in Pittsburgh, Elk was illegally for union organizing at Politico in 2015 and used his NLRB settlement to start the crowd-funded Payday Report. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and is fluent in both Pittsburghese and Portuguese, which he learned when attending journalism school at PUC-Rio de Janerio. Email: [email protected]

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