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UFCW picket continues in Wilmington; gains support of local lawmakers

Quinn Kirkpatrick
Delaware Public Media

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 27’s picket of Kentmere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center continues as contract negotiations drag on.

The UFCW hosted a rally Sunday as it seeks a new deal. Workers’ previous contract expired in February.

Zakieah Buchanan has been a CNA at Kentmere for 10 years and is unhappy with changes new leadership wants to make.

“We really want the management rights to be changed back to how it was,” explained Buchanan. “It was fine the way it was, we never had issues, we never had a problem with the contract. So we just want to keep things how they were, and keep working as a family at Kentmere.”

According to the UFCW, changes to healthcare benefits made without union input increased out-of-pocket costs for workers by 67%.

In addition to addressing the healthcare plan, the UFCW is also seeking fair wage increases, and wants to address daily operations issues that have negatively impacted workers.

State Representative Larry Lambert and State Senator Jack Walsh support the Kentmere workers and the UFCW during these negotiations.

Lambert says workers should have the ability to speak up for what they need.

“These workers were here on the front lines during the pandemic,” said Lambert. “It was their labor and sacrifice for our loved ones that really helped us to get here. And now that it’s time for them to negotiate we support them. We want to make sure we’re centering on our workers, and we’re supporting them.”

And Walsh adds that unions do not deserve the negative image that they’ve developed- they just want to give workers what they deserve.

“It’s all about being fair,” explained Walsh. “We’re not out here trying to be millionaires. WE just want to support our families, and go home at the end of the day with a fair wage and good benefits.”

Nelson Hill, Executive Assistant to the President of UFCW Local 27, and the Vice President of Delaware’s AFL-CIO, says while the change is slow, they have started to see some response to the picketing.

“We’ve made some progress. The company has contacted the union for new negotiations. So we believe that we’ve had a positive effect,” he said.

The UFCW, with support of the AFL-CIO, will continue to picket until it feels Kentmere begins to bargain in good faith.

Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware and graduated of the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021