Alfonso Robinson

Political activist, online journalist

GUEST POST: “No More Mr. Nice HealthBridge”

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The following guest post regarding the strike against HealthBridge Management is from Deborah Chernoff, Communications Director for the New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199 (SEIU Healthcare). -Al Robinson.

It’s not clear what exactly the tipping point was.

Maybe it was the outpouring of support for striking HealthBridge nursing home workers from residents’ family members and the surrounding community. It could have been the high-profile media attention HealthBridge’s record of lawbreaking to get its way was receiving.

Or perhaps it was Governor Malloy walking the picket line and standing with the caregivers that the 1% owners of HealthBridge would rather stand on.

Who knows?

But something got under the skin of the corporate strategists at HealthBridge. And when they realized that their scheme to transfer millions of dollars out of the pockets of Connecticut families and into their own bank accounts wasn’t going according to plan, it was time to shift into a new mode: Attack and accuse.

They are now attempting to divert attention away from their own crimes by accusing caregivers of sabotage – as if people who have given their lives to caring for the residents in their nursing homes would suddenly choose to endanger them. Here’s how workers reacted when they learned about the accusations from a Hartford Courant reporter:

On Wednesday, health care workers walking the picket line outside the Newington nursing home — one of five in Connecticut targeted by the 700 strikers — learned of the allegations. They were so indignant that they talked over each other, as rain clouds burst and small hail pelted them.

“That’s ridiculous!” said Yolanda Amos, a nursing aide.

“We would never sabotage our residents,” said Elaine Ewart.

“They’re our family,” Amos agreed.[…]

Several union members in Newington were so disbelieving of the accusations that they speculated that the managers staged the sabotage to make the union look bad.

Don’t buy that HealthBridge has other motives for these accusations? Consider that HealthBridge waited to release the accusations until two whole weeks after the events allegedly occurred. Despite repeated requests for comment on dozens of stories since the strike began on July 3, the company officials said nothing.

Apparently, HealthBridge forgot it had filed police reports until a post magically surfaced on a right-wing blog on Monday. This was followed a few days later by a HealthBridge press release which was a heavily-politicized statement blasting not the alleged saboteurs but the Governor’s administration and other elected officials who offered their support to workers.

According to the police report, there is no camera footage to review. And only the regular caregivers, their strike replacements and HealthBridge supervisors had access to the equipment and materials that night before the strike began. The investigations are ongoing, and no one knows what the outcome will be. Despite the sensational headlines and disingenuous outrage churning in right-wing blogs, these accusations remain just that.

Let’s be clear.

The allegations are surfacing now because, in the eyes of HealthBridge’s owners, these workers are guilty of a much graver offense: daring to stand up to its larger economic agenda.

Because of this, HealthBridge, its right-wing enablers, and 1% apologists everywhere would love to discredit all of those on the picket lines, whether they are direct caregivers or those who support them. HealthBridge is carefully calculating ways to try and divert attention away from the very real costs of its relentless pursuit of greater-and-greater profits:

  • More than 700 residents are now receiving care from complete strangers, after HealthBridge illegally forced caregivers to strike if they were unwilling to agree to its agenda of economic misery for the 99% and riches for the 1%.
  • More than 600 caregivers remain out of a job while HealthBridge orchestrates its largest and most vicious campaign yet to destroy their union and break their will to fight to preserve quality resident care and good jobs for Connecticut’s healthcare workers.

HealthBridge has told workers their hopes to maintain a decent standard of living are simply not “realistic”. Meanwhile, HealthBridge principals. Meanwhile, HealthBridge is reporting annual profits of around $45.4 million from its New Jersey headquarters in 2010.

And HealthBridge principal, brothers Daniel and Moshael Straus, their subsidiaries and related companies were paid a whopping $234 million from HealthBridge coffers in the same year.

As the strike continues, we can expect to see more diversions and distractions by HealthBridge to try and demonize those who stand up to their greed and expose the company’s long history of unlawful actions. The public can now expect to see a whole new side of HealthBridge—one that its workers and residents are all too familiar with and one that will stop at nothing to get what it wants.

Categories: General

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7 Responses

  1. Mike D says:

    Once again, we see the manipulated working class criticizing unions and striking workers. We have a 40 hour work week. We have healthcare benefits. I am not in a union, but I do know the history of the labor struggle in this country, which gave us these things we take for granted. And it is an ongoing struggle, if the workers lie down, the owners will try and take more and pay less. The best solution to the problems in this country is if every single worker was in one giant unified union. A general strike could be called to shut down the entire economic system, for as long as it takes to show the 1% that they need the 99% to operate, and must respect the worker.

  2. a concerned person says:

    I know for a fact that someone was asked to sabotage a building by hiding things but had the integrity not to do it! Yes, the union asked!! This is just like terrorism in our own back yards! the strikers are being pressured, lied to, and expected to be bullies to others. Yes, people were asked to sabotage and some did! seeing some people on the lines as I drive by show me that they are very capable of being the type to be vindictive! 1199 tries to act so innocent, yet they are evil and undermining and will let the strikers take the hit for their works. they have a lot of money to make and don’t want to lose it…so they send these workers on strike for them to lose their paychecks, insurance, and more to support their fight with a company! people need to wake up…they want money just like to owners!! you are being brainwashed and they want to win at your expense!! it is just like organized crime…the mob…just give it a different name….no need for unions or strikes in todays times….especially when it comes to the lives of the people in the nursing home! they chose to strike…or did they? who counted the votes? i am sure it was fixed and the union was pissed off and wanted to get even at the hands of the strikers. so, what does the heads of 1199 make, how much profit/ how much do the organizers…big bullies make? you are all puppets on a string and you should feel foolish to think they are really watching out for you!!! take your soul back…don’t go down with the devil! shame on 1199 for it’s historical dirty tactics…illegal, criminal, and evil!!! digest!

  3. concerned says:

    I went to visit and those striking would not let me pass for a minute. Strike… Do what you need to do but who do you think you are obstructing me to go inside? Unproffessional and outright rude. You actually think by making such a scene that I would want my family to be there? And to be taken care of by those claiming unfair practices acting like uncivilized people? Take out your frustration with the company… Not those trying to visit nor work.

  4. Pam Dumas says:

    I am curious to know how much profit SEIU 1199 makes each year and how much this business (yes, SEIU 1199 is a business) pays it’s corporate employees, such as Ms. Chernoff. I am also interested to know if any of the buildings that are on strike are making a profit. I believe that when a decision is made to keep or close a facility, it is based on that particular facility’s financial situation and not the overall financial stability of the parent corporation. Maybe I am wrong about this?

  5. Lisa says:

    ….As the police reports were filed ten days before the Governor Malloy’s visit to the SEIU picket line at one of the nursing homes where the sabotage occurred, it appears that Malloy won’t be undertaking any investigation like the one that occurred under Republican Governor John Rowland in 2001….yes, this is from a right-wing blog, Ms. Chernoff. But who else would publish any opposition to your rabid union tactics??
    http://www.redstate.com/laborunionreport/2012/07/16/did-seiu-strikers-endanger-nursing-homes-residents-in-connecticut/
    As in 2001, and before, sabotage has always been encouraged by 1199.
    Bottom line is nursing homes are receiving less and less reimbursement from Medicare & Medicaid is broke….since you are so offended by owners making profit, your 99%’er’s should go seek employment with a company that doesn’t make a profit….oh, wait…no such thing!

  6. Pam Dumas says:

    I feel badly for all persons caught in the middle of this struggle between the union and the company. The most difficult thing in this specific battle is that the lives of so many people – nursing home residents, families, staff – are being affected by the decisions of the very few that truly control the outcome, on both sides of the table. Neither side is completely innocent.

    Unilaterally enacting changes in wages and benefits may not have been nice, but is it illegal? That is for someone with a lot more legal knowledge in this area than me to determine. Saying that this company “illegally forced caregivers to strike” is totally false, as no one can force someone to go on strike. In these economic times, I can’t even imagine someone believing that striking is going to solve anything.

    Stamford is already facing the closure of one of its nursing facilities due to longstanding financial difficulties. We have seen the closure of other facilities across the state in the past several years. Medicare enacted severe cuts in reimbursement this year and is planning further cuts in the future. Medicaid has never covered the cost of caring for those most vulnerable. The CT legislature also extended the moratorium on new nursing home beds for another 4-plus years to continue “right-sizing” the system of care for older adults. More nursing home closures are sure to follow. As it is, Fairfield County has the second smallest number of nursing home beds per 1,000 persons over the age of 65, in Connecticut.

    Do I have a solution to all of this? Unfortunately not, except to say that both sides need to think of the residents and families first and foremost. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if both sides could really talk and come to a compromise? If the information in the press is even slightly accurate, I don’t see this happening any time soon. In the meantime the residents of these nursing homes are receiving care and coming to know new faces, all under the watchful eyes of the CT DPH.

    I can and do pray that cooler and more logic-minded (not politically-motivated) heads prevail, for the sake of the residents in the affected nursing homes.

  7. Nursing Aide says:

    This is a really good post. Must admit that you are amongst the best bloggers I have read. Thanks for posting this informative article.