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SWEENEY, HEAD OF GIANT SERVICE EMPLOYEES UNION, ANNOUNCES STATEWIDE UNION ORGANIZING CAMPAIGN

 SWEENEY, HEAD OF GIANT SERVICE EMPLOYEES UNION,
 ANNOUNCES STATEWIDE UNION ORGANIZING CAMPAIGN
 HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- The nation's biggest health care union today announced a statewide drive to unionize nursing home workers in Pennsylvania, following up a union study revealing private sector nursing home workers in the commonwealth have significantly lower pay and fewer benefits than their counterparts in public nursing homes.
 "We surveyed a cross section of 500 Pennsylvania certified nurse aides and found a significant wage and benefit gap exists between nurse aides working at public nursing homes, which are heavily unionized, and those employed by private sector nursing homes," said John J. Sweeney, International President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which numbers some 400,000 health care workers among its more than 1 million members.
 Sweeney, speaking at a news conference following an address to the annual SEIU State Council meeting, said the study showed nurse aides in public homes make $1.34 an hour more than those in private homes. About 92 percent of the public home workers reported being covered by some form of pension or retirement plan, while only 25 percent of private workers reported coverage. The survey also showed that only 57 percent of private nursing home aides have health insurance coverage at work, as contrasted to some 90 percent of public nursing home aides.
 "Our study shows nearly 80 percent of public nursing home workers in Pennsylvania are represented by unions and the effect of that representation shows," said Sweeney. "Conversely, only 22 percent of private nursing home workers in the state have unions, and the lack of strong representation is reflected in lower pay and benefits."
 The union study, which was conducted in August, prompted three Pennsylvania Service Employees local unions to join forces for a statewide campaign -- Local 1199P, which is headquartered in State College and has 7,000 members, Local 585 in Pittsburgh, with some 8,000 members, and the 18,000-member Pennsylvania Social Services Union (PSSU), SEIU Local 668, with headquarters in Harrisburg.
 According to Sweeney, the union survey revealed that nurse aides rank short-staffing as their biggest obstacle in providing good patient care and that some 42 percent of the workers have sustained a back injury at work.
 "Conditions for nursing home workers as well as patients in Pennsylvania have deteriorated since Sen. John Heinz first revealed the sorry conditions in the nursing home industry in our country in 1986," Sweeney said. "If he were here today, he'd be aghast that we've gone backward, instead of forward."
 The Service Employees Union has 21 local unions in Pennsylvania, with a combined membership of 50,000. The union, which also represents large numbers of public employees, clerical workers and building janitors, is the fourth largest and fastest growing union in the AFL-CIO.
 Sweeney said interest in unionizing is growing among nursing home workers in Pennsylvania, noting that workers at five nursing homes in the state have joined SEIU since May and workers at four other homes have representation elections scheduled within the next six weeks.
 Sweeney also used the news conference to announce that coordinated bargaining begins this week in 40 SEIU-represented nursing homes across the state, including 18 owned by industry giant Beverly Enterprises.
 Sweeney said the Service Employees Union has endorsed Bill Clinton and will be working hard here over the next few weeks to push the Democratic candidate over the top. Sweeney is a key national health plan advisor to Clinton. The union has also endorsed Democratic nominee Lynn Yeakel for U.S. Senate.
 In closing, Sweeney urged nursing home workers to join the union's effort by calling the campaign hotline at 800-862-1500.
 /delval/
 -0- 10/6/92
 /CONTACT: Dan Stark, 717-234-4160, or Paul Zdinak, 717-234-4113, both of the PSSU/ CO: Pennsylvania Social Services Union; Service Employees International
 Union ST: Pennsylvania IN: SU:


MJ-CC -- PH016 -- 7131 10/06/92 14:00 EDT
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Date:Oct 6, 1992
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