Burlingame Skilled Nursing Workers Hold Strike as Coronavirus Races Through Facility

More than 100 AFSCME Local 829 members went on strike this month to call out the unfair labor practices being used by management at Brius, the parent company that owns the Burlingame Skilled Nursing facility and the largest for-profit nursing home operator in California.

Our sisters and brothers voted 98% in favor of taking this extraordinary action. They have been bargaining with Brius management since last summer and they have been fighting for decent wages, safe staffing levels and better health insurance to support the often-overlooked work they do to support their patients, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before the strike, Brius had rejected all reasonable proposals, refused to bargain in good faith and was even intimidating the workers.

“After the second round of COVID hit, management made us work 12-hour shifts without any advance notice, and we’re fighting because we think that’s unfair to our workers and to the residents,” said Rachel Soriano, a Local 829 member who works as a licensed vocational nurse at the nursing facility. “They’re not getting the special care that they deserve.”

Local 829 member Reynafe Mosquera said she started working in the skilled nursing industry because she loves helping people who can’t help themselves and providing them with a high standard of care. In return, she said, she and her coworkers deserve to be treated with the same standard of care.

“We are striking to keep our patients and our families safe,” said Mosquera, a licensed vocational nurse. “At this point, we have no other options.”

Several weeks ago, the workers held a vigil for those who have died from COVID-19 at the facility, which by their count has been more than a dozen patients since December. Recently, an office worker in her 40s also died from the virus, workers said.

Although vaccinations among staff and patients began at the Burlingame facility several days before Christmas, the protection didn’t start for about two weeks and by then the outbreak had already taken hold, workers said.

“I don’t want to get sick, and I don’t want to die early,” said Roland Glover, a Local 829 member who works as a certified nurse assistant at the facility.

The unfair labor practices strike shined a light on what it’s really been like to work at the nursing facility during the pandemic, and it attracted support from numerous elected officials, labor leaders and other community organizations.

Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Kevin Mullin said our members were doing “the Lord’s work” by serving their patients, who are some of the most vulnerable people in the state.

“Please know that the leadership of this county stands with you and, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for the work you do every day,” Mullin said at a rally held during the strike. “It’s time for the owner of this corporation to come to the table and recognize that you all are putting yourselves quite literally on the front lines of this pandemic.”

Burlingame City Councilwoman Emily Beach, state Sen. Josh Becker, San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine, Belmont Mayor Charles Stone and San Mateo Labor Council Executive Director Julie Lind-Rupp also spoke out publicly in favor of the strike.

As of this week, our Burlingame sisters and brothers have returned to the bargaining table with Brius in hopes of getting a swift victory. We will keep you posted on their progress.