Serious outbreak of wage increases across nursing home industry


By Don McIntosh

Since April, when the Avamere nursing home chain signed a breakthrough contract with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 503 raising starting wages up to $4 an hour, four other Oregon nursing home chains have agreed to match those standards. The life-changing raises come as signed letters of agreement with Avalon, Prestige, EmpRes, and Dakavia, all which have current union contracts that run through Sept. 30, 2021. 

“It’s really clear why,” said Local 503 spokesperson Ben Morris. “They’re having a hard time hiring across the industry.” 

At Avalon, the new $18 an hour wage floor took effect June 7 for all certified nursing assistants and certified medication aides—a 23% increase in starting wages. At Prestige, the new wage floor is also $18 an hour— for certified nursing assistants, certified medication aides, and restorative aides. It’s the single largest one-time pay increase at Prestige since workers there unionized. 

Avalon and Prestige reached their agreements May 11.

And on May 16 at the EmpRes chain, starting wages rose to $21 an hour for certified medication aides and $18 an hour for certified nursing assistants. 

That left Dakavia as the only remaining hold out among unionized nursing home chains in Oregon. On June 15, Dakavia too signed a similar letter of understanding, raising starting pay to $17.50 for nursing assistants, $18.50 for certified nursing assistants, and $20.75 for certified medical assistants.

Nonunion Marquis Companies has also raised wages.

All told, Local 503 represents 550 workers at Avamere nursing homes; 649 workers at 10 Avalon facilities; 882 at 17 Prestige facilities; 307 at 10 EmpRes facilities; and 75 workers at three Dakavia facilities.


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