PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Local health care workers demonstrated Thursday outside of Avante, a skilled nursing facility in Palm Beach County.
"They call us heroes, but we haven’t been treated as heroes," said Nadia Bataille, a certified nursing assistant at Avante.
Members of the local 1199 SEIU gathered in front of Avante skilled nursing and rehabilitation in Palm Beach County as their union heads back to the bargaining table tomorrow pushing for better pay and more staffing.
Marie Saintsurin was one of the demonstrators Thursday and has worked at Avante as a CNA for 10 years.
"For us to have a better wage. While all this is happening during the pandemic, everyone else is leaving and we have short staff and we can’t be doing what we are supposed to be doing for our patient," Saintsurin said.
The frontline workers negotiating are nurses, cooks, and health care technicians among other positions. They make up a majority of the staff at Avante.
The union said their contract expired in December and are currently in an extension without a new contract addressing their concerns.
"We lost co-workers. They haven't been replaced. They can’t be replaced. Why? Because the living wage is kind of ridiculous," Bataille said.
"They are working short. They can’t take care of the resident the way they want to. Why is that. Because the living wage, they’re hardly paid, its too low. Workers are leaving the field to go to McDonalds and other places where they get $15 an hour," said Margaret Nerette, the vice president of long-term care at Avante.
State Rep. Omari Hardy spoke during the demonstration.
"Listen to these folks who know what they’re talking about. Because they live it they work, they do it," Hardy said.
Avante released a statement to WPTV that reads in part, "We have been in constant communication with the SEIU throughout the pandemic to ensure appropriate compensation and supplies for our staff while handling residents with COVID or COVID exposures."