A small group of union-backed protesters railed against labor and living conditions at one of the nation’s largest senior care providers’ facilities Feb. 27 on the Upper West Side.
The company, in turn, accused protest organizers of waging a publicity stunt to collect more union dues.
Standing outside Atria Senior Living on West 86th Street, between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive, eight protesters wore SEIU stickers and called for unionizing service workers at all 23 New York Atria homes.
Union Effort Stymied
Rabbi Michael Feinberg, a community activist, held up an anti-union flier Atria purportedly distributed to its workers.
“This filer says nothing about the fact that it’s their democratic right to improve their workplace situation, to improve care for residents,” Feinberg said.
Protest organizer Daniel May charged that in recent years Atria has increased rent, made medication mistakes, locked-in patients and otherwise neglected its senior population. Atria should “begin to sit down with workers and talk about how they can address providing adequate staffing, adequate training to make sure the residents get what they need,” he said.
An Atria spokeswoman countered that the company, which provides residential services to more than 13,000 senior in 27 states, is the victim of an ongoing smear campaign by the powerful Service Employees International Union.
“The SEIU’s press release and protest are part of an ongoing corporate attack campaign to tarnish Atria’s reputation and get more members and dues money,” said Amy Risley, the spokeswoman. “The SEIU continues to lose credibility by attacking our company with distorted claims and half-truths.”
While the SEIU forces picketted, Susan MacArevey spoke about her mother’s death at an Atria care facility in Albany.
Her mother hit her head after suffering a heat attack and stumbled around, said MacArevey, who traveled from Wisconsin to attend the protest. A family member discovered the body the next day, MacArevey added.
One Woman’s Story
No one had checked on her mother that night, she said. Only one worker had been assigned to look after approximately 134 residents all night, she said.
Atria confirmed that MacArevey’s mother was a long-time resident at Atria Shaker in Albany but refused comment on her case.
Since May 2007, SEIU has continuously campaigned against Atria care facilities nationwide, including a Jan. 28 protest at one Davis, CA center over rising rent costs.
On March 4, SEIU plans a protest outside of Rockefeller Center against Lazard, Ltd., the investment firm that is affiliated with Atriaâ€™s private owners.
Linnea Covington and Daniel Macht contributed reporting