This morning, Assemblyman Troy Singleton spent two hours at Cinnaminson Center Nursing Home – in his 7th Legislative District. He took a tour of the building with some people who work there and leaders of the union that represent them, 1199SEIU. He stopped along the way, to take up the tasks the workers were engaged in, taking care of the medically frail and elderly folks that live there. With one worker, he helped vacuum the floor, with another he delivered mid-morning snacks (chocolate milk, pudding, other treats, depending on each resident’s diet), and he set the table for the residents’ lunch, which workers do every day there. Then, in the therapy room, he helped with the trivia questions that help keep old minds alert, and witnessed what it’s like to help people in wheelchairs get their exercise.
We need more of this. To be sure, there is an element of a good politician upping his profile in the District. But honestly, if we had more people spending their time this way, going out to see just what happens in people’s lives after they sponsor a bill or cast a vote.
Yonette Vails, a certified nursing assistant (C.N.A.):
I think it is so important that the people who make decisions about funding our nursing home see the extent of care that we give to the residents. We don’t only provide care. We provide support and companionship that is so critical to the health and well-being of our residents.
You know what C.N.A.s make? About $11-13 dollars an hour. Can you imagine what it would be like if all of our electeds knew what it was like to work hard for some of our most fragile and elderly citizens, take them to get washed and to the bathroom, make sure they’re eating and drinking enough. To be that intimate with people who need you there – for $11/hour and benefits that often have to be fought for? I’d like to see all our legislators do this; I’d like to see each union offer it. Imagine what it would be like to watch Chris Christie get through a day of teaching math, or music or world history to kids. He wouldn’t know what to do beyond exercising his authority over an unruly room, just as he does when he talks to grownups.
Last year, the Christie administration imposed massive cuts in spending in nursing home allocations. Singleton says that meant in real terms the loss of programs for residents, and fewer day trips out to the community and shopping. He reports both the administration and the staff at Cinnaminson tried to compensate, sometimes dipping into their own pockets and running out to the dollar store to make sure there were enough toiletries for the residents. sometimes even bringing in toiletries picked up at the dollar store. This year, the Legislature restored funding (Gary Schaer, prime sponsor, Singleton also a sponsor), easing things for both residents and the workers who take care of them. Singleton told Blue Jersey:
This is, to me, the most important part of my job – to be as close as I can to the residents of my District. They’re my bosses and I have 200,000 of them. Rather than dealing with issues in the abstract as we do on the Budget Committee, to really see what the impact is of what we do in the legislature, means a lot to me. It strengthens my resolve, and I’m left with a new commitment.
Milly Silva, 1199SEIU’s Executive VP was there:
We’re so thankful Assemblyman Singleton took the time to come to not only see what the workers do but to speak to them one on one about what they do, and to talk to the residents – Cinnaminson Center Nursing Home is their home – demonstrates leadership on his part to walk the walk
not only in trenton but where those decisions matter. We have a Governor who is saying I will slash and cut everything I can. But we also have people like Troy Singleton, who are doing the right thing.
Allies like Assemblyman Singleton understand that properly funding the nursing home industry not only allows our members to provide quality care, but to do so with the peace of mind that comes with the protections of health benefits, a secure retirement and a decent wage.”
Silva also took the opportunity thank Singleton for his staunch support of nursing home funding in this year’s budget.
SEIU calls this their “Walk a Day in My Shoes” program. The goal? To get every elected official to experience firsthand what life is like for working people.
Last year there were similar visits from Sen. Sandra Cunningham and her LD-31 Democratic colleague Asm Jason O’Donnell, as well as Republican Sen. Samuel D. Thompson of LD-12. Singleton’s visit this morning also included a Q & A with not only SEIU workers there, but residents. A good opportunity for civic engagement with some of the elders the assemblyman represents.
Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Burlington) joined members of 1199SEIU, United Healthcare East today at Cinnaminson Center Nursing Home to “walk in the shoes” of the nursing home workers. The union’s “Walk a Day in My Shoes” program seeks to get every elected official to experience firsthand what life is like for working people. At the nursing home, where 1199SEIU workers provide direct care and support services to New Jersey’s frail and elderly, Assemblyman Singleton spent 2 hours performing the same everyday tasks that the workers do, from housekeeping to rounds with certified nursing assistants.
1199SEIU Executive President Milly Silva, who along with several union members escorted him on his visit said, “I want to thank Assemblyman Singleton for walking in the shoes of our hard working caregivers, and also for his staunch support of nursing home funding in this year’s budget. Allies like Assemblyman Singleton understand that properly funding the nursing home industry not only allows our members to provide quality care, but to do so with the peace of mind that comes with the protections of health benefits, a secure retirement and a decent wage.”
Yonette Vails, a certified nursing assistant (C.N.A.) said, “I think it is so important that the people who make decisions about funding our nursing home see the extent of care that we give to the residents. We don’t only provide care. We provide support and companionship that is so critical to the health and well-being of our residents.”
C.N.A. Vanessa Frater added, “The residents depend on us. Without us, many of them have nobody. Assemblyman Singleton was able to see that today.”
A lively question and answer forum with 1199SEIU members and their residents followed the program.
1199SEIU represents the largest percentage of long-term care workers in New Jersey, including certified nursing assistants, LPNs, recreational aides, maintenance workers, housekeepers and home health aides.
With over 350,000 members throughout New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Florida, 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest growing healthcare union in America. Our mission is to achieve high quality, affordable healthcare for all.