Leaders of the union that represents about 65 Mount View Health Facility employees tried to confront the Niagara County Legislature's majority leader at his Cramer Street home Thursday, but he wasn't there.
Officials of the Civil Service Employees Association settled for holding a news conference on the sidewalk, attacking Republican Malcolm A. Needler for past public statements that employees at the county-owned nursing home are paid more than the Western New York average and that the union hasn't cooperated to find a way to save Mount View from closing.
However, the CSEA leaders were unable to rebut Needler's numbers, except to assert that they are two years out of date. They presented no competing wage figures for Mount View employees.
"Yes, they do earn a little bit more than the private sector, but their longevity is long," said Frances E. Faery, president of CSEA Local 832. "In the private sector, they have a revolving door."
CSEA Regional Director Roger Sherrie said Mount View workers, who include about 140 members of another union, haven't had a raise since 2002. Questioned by reporters, he acknowledged that employees with less than 10 years' experience have received annual incremental increases under the terms of the contract that expired at the end of 2002.
The protest was the second time this week the CSEA has targeted Needler. Sherrie said the union mailed out 11,000 postcards to county residents he described as "prime voters," urging them to call Needler and ask him not to sell the nursing home.
"I've gotten 18 calls," Needler said by telephone. "Surprisingly, since CSEA picked the audience, 10 wanted to keep (Mount View) open and eight said, 'Go ahead and close it.' "
The CSEA issued a poll in June that showed 86 percent of residents support keeping Mount View open even if it meant a tax increase.
The Legislature voted June 15 to put Mount View up for sale, adding it will be closed if no sale is made by June 2005. The Town of Lockport facility, which houses about 135 patients, mostly Medicaid recipients, is being subsidized this year with almost $1.2 million in property tax money. The county projects that to rise about $300,000 a year.
Patricia Weeks O'Connor, the Mount View administrator, said the county has yet to complete the text of the request for proposals to be mailed to nursing home companies.