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During the coronavirus pandemic, Shantonia Jackson, a certified nursing assistant at a nursing home in Cicero, Illinois, worked through Covid-19 outbreaks in which more than 250 residents tested positive for the virus, and one of her co-workers and friends passed away along with several residents.
Jackson described working 16-hour days, seven days a week, as dozens of employees were often out sick or in quarantine. Caring for 70 residents at once, she still made time for those she cared for to use her cellphone to make video calls to loved ones they were no longer able to see. Adequate personal protective equipment was a constant issue and concern. At home, Jackson quarantined herself from the rest of her family, only interacting with her daughter through video calls even though they live in the same house.
In November 2020, Jackson and her co-workers went on strike for 12 days during new contract negotiations between management and her union, SEIU, for better pay and improved working conditions.
It took until March 2021 for Jackson, her co-workers, and residents to begin receiving vaccines.
“This industry is broken. Nobody cares about the elderly any more,” said Jackson. “We need to improve the way people perceive home care and nursing home work. There needs to be a big reform, and not letting it be about numbers and greed, not worrying about the head count a facility can get, it should be about proper care.”