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Is 1.6% raise too much to ask for county nursing home workers?

To The Daily Sun,

Kudos to those members of the Belknap County Legislative Delegation, including two Republicans, who voted to fund the contract with the Belknap County Nursing Home employees. Unfortunately, this was voted down 9-7 by the extreme-right legislators under the leadership of Rep. Colette Worsman (R-Meredith). Shame on them.

Rep. Worsman, when told that if the Delegation did not vote to fund the new contract if might result in layoffs at the nursing home, seemed to not consider such effects her concern. In fact, she basically said as much. This shows a real lack of compassion on Ms. Worsman's part.

We are not talking about "overpaid and underworked" public employees as Ms. Worsman and her fellow extreme ideologues would have the public believe. Nor are we talking about highly-paid top medical professionals. In fact, I believe that even RNs are exempt from this contract. For the most part, we are talking about LPNs and LNAs, among the lowest-paid of the paramedical fields. And, in spite of disinformation disseminated by a Republican member of the County Delegation, they are trained and licensed.

I have known a number of LNAs, also known as nursing assistants. This once included my wife. They work long, hard hours. At the Belknap County Nursing Home, they get about $12 an hour. This is about $1 over a "living wage." In addition, many have had to pay for training.

I attended the meeting between our bi-partisan County Commission and the Legislative Convention. The commissioners, in good faith, negotiated a contract with the nursing home workers. These employees did not ask for much: a change to their medical plan that would encourage good health habits, and for a modest 1.6 percent pay raise after two years of no raises. It would have only cost each taxpayer about $2 — the price of a decent cup of coffee.

These are the people who "empty the bedpans," wash the patients, feed them, comfort them when they are dying, and help them with their bodily functions. They are also often the first recipients of verbal or physical abuse from patients. Is a 1.6 percent raise too much to ask for these workers? These workers are dealing with our least powerful. Don't we want them fairly-compensated for what they do?

Was there a bit of "classism" or "elitism" in the attitudes of those who voted "no?" After all, those who go to the Belknap County Nursing Home are those who cannot afford a private one.

E. Scott Cracraft