September 21, 2021

AFSCME helps change the law for Wexford CNAs

In the spring state legislative session, the AFSCME Council 31 lobbying team secured passage of a bill that helps certified nursing assistants (CNAs) in the Illinois Department of Corrections maintain their certification.

Sponsored by Sen. Christopher Belt, Rep. Jaime Andrade and Rep. LaToya Greenwood, the legislation amends the Health Care Worker Background Check Act. Under that law, CNAs must be continuously employed (no more than a 24-month break in service) by a health care employer or else they are listed as inactive on the Health Care Worker Registry and so prohibited from being hired to work as a CNA.

The definition of “health care employer” under the law didn’t include the Department of Corrections or a third-party vendor employing certified nursing assistants working with the Department of Corrections, such as Wexford Health Services, which employs many AFSCME members. As a result, CNAs working in Illinois correctional facilities were forced to seek secondary employment in order to maintain their certifications.

“The law didn’t make sense,” said Council 31 Legislative Director Joanna Webb-Gauvin. “It just left out CNAs who’ve been actively working in the state’s prisons.”

The problem originally came to light at Graham Correctional Center. “The union steward and president there reached out to their staff representative, and we all thought, if the law isn’t working, let’s change it,” Webb-Gauvin said. "And we did. The new law is a big win and a big help for CNAs working in DOC facilities.”

The bill was signed into law by Gov. JB Pritzker on July 30.

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