SEIU striking workers in Westland were joined by U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) and Hill Harper, a 2024 Democratic Party candidate for U.S. senate. | Ken Coleman
Dozens of workers chanting, “We’re fired up; we can’t take it no more!” and “No justice; no peace” rallied on Tuesday at Four Seasons Nursing home in Westland.
The effort kicked off a series of strikes at three metro Detroit nursing homes representing nearly 250 workers organized by Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The labor union plans similar efforts later this month at other nursing home sites in Royal Oak and Livonia.
“It’s a shame that we are once again forced to strike for a contract with competitive wages and benefits. Our residents deserve safe staffing and the highest levels of quality care, and that starts with staff retention and recruitment. We are ready to stand together once again and strike for the contract that we deserve,” said Sirlina Carlos, a restorative Certified Nurse Assistant for nearly 20 years at Four Seasons Nursing Home.
Optalis Management, owner of the Westland nursing home, did not respond to a request for comment.
All three nursing homes are connected with Optalis Management. In 2020 during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, nursing home workers at Four Seasons went on strike for three days in Westland, winning a contract that raised wages and increased benefits for members.
Shirley Patton has been a housekeeper at Four Seasons for more than 25 years.
“I’m striking for the housekeeping, laundry, and dietary workers being left behind with livable wages. We all do the same work, and we all deserve the same level of pay increases,” said Patton.
The striking workers were joined by U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) and Hill Harper, a 2024 Democratic Party candidate for an open U.S. Senate seat.
“You are our health care heroes,” Harper, an actor, author and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists member. “We appreciate you being on the front lines. This is a moment for labor. … Let’s drag a line in the sand right now. When we fight, we win.”
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) is retiring next year and several other Democrats are hoping to succeed her: U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly); Michigan Board of Education President Pamela Pugh; attorney Zack Burns; businessman Nasser Beydoun; and former State Rep. Leslie Love.
GOP candidates are: former Detroit Police Chief James Craig; former U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers; Board of Education member Nikki Snyder; former Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott; Alexandria Taylor, an attorney who has previously represented Michigan GOP Chair Kristina Karamo; Sherry O’Donnell, a former 2022 congressional candidate and Michigan state chair for U.S. Term Limits; conservative businessman J.D. Wilson; and Michael Hoover, who previously worked for Dow Chemical Co.
Tlaib also showed her support for the striking workers.
“It takes courage for what you all are doing,” Tlaib said. “For you to walk out demand better it takes courage and you are inspiring some many other people to take that step. You do deserve better. You all take care of the most vulnerable among us.”
When I asked by the Advance for comment on the ongoing war in Israel after the militant group Hamas launched surprise attacks and her Sunday statement, Tlaib declined to comment further.
“I grieve the Palestinian and Israeli lives lost yesterday, today, and every day,” Tlaib said on Sunday. “I am determined as ever to fight for a just future where everyone can live in peace, without fear and with true freedom, equal rights, and human dignity. The path to that future must include lifting the blockade, ending the occupation and dismantling the apartheid system that creates the suffocating, dehumanizing conditions that can lead to resistance.
“The failure to recognize the violent reality of living under siege, occupation, and apartheid makes no one safer,” she said. “No person, no child anywhere should have to suffer or live in fear of violence. We cannot ignore the humanity in each other. As long as our country provides billions in unconditional funding to support the apartheid government, this heartbreaking cycle of violence will continue.”
Some Democratic and Republican state and federal lawmakers have criticized Tlaib’s statement for not condemning Hamas.
However, she was well received in Westland as she received hugs from workers and took photos with them.
Charlesetta Wilson of SEIU called Tlaib “our fighter in Washington.”
“A woman who has been on every strike line that I’ve been on over the last 10 years,” Wilson said about Tlaib.
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