Workers strike outside Cedar Haven Healthcare Center

LEBANON COUNTY, Pa. -- Starting at noon Friday, licensed practical nurses, certified nursing assistants and supports lined the streets outside the Cedar Haven Healthcare Center in South Lebanon Township.

Under chants of "five stars because we care" and "patients not profits," they began a work strike against their ownership, Stone Barn Holdings.

Nurses, such as Wendy Viramontes, are unhappy with labor negotiations, saying their benefits have been slashed.

"What we're here for is to try and get something that is worthy of us," said Viramontes.

The two keys points of the strike: a reduction in paid time off and increased health care benefit costs.

"I would really have no vacation time, no down time. It's high stress, we're short staffed all the time, it's just something that we need and our insurance has skyrocketed. I would not be able to afford to see a doctor after I paid my premium," said Viramontes.

Employees at Cedar Haven aren't strangers to labor disputes.

Last year, AFSCME District 89 Director Steven Mullen said a strike was "narrowly avoided" after employees voted to accept cuts.

This year, however, staff members say it's a different tone.

"It's much worse. It's much worse because last year, he took a knife to us. This year, he took an ax. Next year, it's going to be a bulldozer," said Viramontes.

Mullen said they remained in constant communication with ownership during their 10-day notice to strike last year.

This year, he said contact has been minimal.

"You will not get quality people working here if these cuts are allowed to stand," said Mullen.

He said their new 10-day notice to strike was submitted to legally prepare the center to fill necessary staff.

Viramontes said their efforts are for more than themselves, but for their patients inside.

"We would rather be in there, doing our jobs, taking care of the loved ones...They're our family now and we rather be inside those doors taking care of them than being outside doing this," said Viramontes.

FOX 43 reached out to officials with Stone Barn Holdings for comment. None have been issued to this point.

Mullen said the strike will continue Saturday morning at 7 and is expected to continue until negotiations resume.