Venice healthcare workers ask for higher wages, go on strike

- Workers making minimum wage have organized protests across the country, demanding up to $15 per hour, but one such group in Venice is not made up of fast food workers. Instead, they're tasked with taking care of sick and elderly patients in nursing homes. 

For 25 years, Amy Runkle has worked at Bay Breeze Health and Rehabilitation in Venice.

"I love my job. I love taking care of residents. The elderly need people like us," she said.

Runkle and others like her say they cannot survive on minimum wages and are taking their concerns to the street - going on strike for 24 hours. 

"The gripe is, we don't make enough money to support our own families. There are people here making $9 an hour to start. There are some people who are still on some government assistance," said Runkle.

Amy has managed to get by on her pay, but she is worried about newer employees.

"As a single person, it is very hard to live in this town," said Cobran Otter.

As a certified nursing assistant, Cobran Otter makes $10 an hour. According to PayScale.Com, that is about $1 per hour below average for his position.

"It ends up being between food or gas. It's kind of hard to budget everything into it," he said.

Genevieve Martin is a housekeeper at the nursing home. She makes $8.50.

"You are constantly budgeting what you can pay, one or two week period, and what you can have to wait to pay the next two week period," she said.

Workers from 19 nursing homes across Florida are joining, supporting the call for a minimum starting wage of $15 an hour.

Consulate, the company that owns the nursing homes, responded with a statement. It did not address its employees wage concerns, but said:

"While we are disappointed in the union's decision to strike, the continuity of patient and resident care will remain unaffected thanks to the combined efforts of our dedicated staff and compassionate fellow care center volunteers. We will continue to work in good faith, as we have always done, towards a resolution."

Workers said this is their last straw.

"Our hand has been forced. Our residents understand us, our residents do support us, but they have to understand we need more money to take care of our families," Runkle said.

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