Published: May 19, 2021

Empress Becomes Fourth Nursing Home Chain In Oregon To Raise Wages to $18 per hour. 

Portland, OR—The wave of wage increases at nursing homes in Oregon continues this week with Empress becoming the fourth chain to raise its starting wage to $18 per hour. The agreement between Empress and SEIU 503 went into effect on May 16.

Empress joins Prestige, Avalon, and Avamere in raising their wage floor for CNAs to $18. The trend began with the signing of a landmark contract between SEIU 503 and Avamere, Oregon’s largest nursing home chain.

“We expect the momentum from the Avamere contract to sweep across the industry,” said Melissa Unger, Executive Director of SEIU 503. “People are not willing to take hard, dangerous jobs where they are not respected, protected or paid fairly for the work they do. COVID put a spotlight on problems in the industry, and workers responded by organizing with an intensity we have not seen in years. SEIU 503 members participated in actions across the state, advocating for better pay, better training and better outcomes for the residents they care for.”

$18 represents 20 to 30% wage increases at SEIU 503-represented nursing homes. That’s a life changing raise, but the SEIU-Avamere contract isn’t only about pay. Included in that agreement are plans for safer staffing, better training programs, and career ladders for care providers. SEIU 503 expects other companies to follow Avamere’s lead on these critical issues as well.

“Staffing, training and employee retention are critical to reforming an industry that buckled under the pressure of COVID-19,” Unger said. “The pay is important, but it’s just the start. We are negotiating contracts with 5 nursing home chains later this year, and we expect all these issues to be front and center in those talks.”