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GUEST POST: “Judge grants injunction vs. HealthBridge in long strike”

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). -ctblogger.

A major step forward this week for our communities, patients and their families, and the workers who care for them at the Danbury Health Care Center and the other nursing homes operated by HealthBridge in Connecticut. Federal judge Robert Chatigny last night took the extremely rare step of issuing an injunction against the New Jersey-based for-profit nursing home corporation for its illegal and unfair treatment of nursing home workers that forced nearly 600 of them out on strike in July.

In his ruling, the judge ordered HealthBridge to reinstate all striking workers to their former positions by December 17. The ruling also ordered HealthBridge to reinstate the previous wages, benefits and other terms of employment that were in place under the workers’ prior contract. Replacement workers hired by HealthBridge will be let go.

It’s been over five months since members of our union — nurses, aides, and nursing home support staff – were forced to strike against HealthBridge, after the company illegally and unilaterally imposed a new contract with severe ramifications for the their compensation, benefits, and working conditions. An independent federal agency, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), is in the process of prosecuting several Complaints against the company. The judge’s ruling for an injunction essentially means workers get to go back to doing what they do best – taking care of patients – while the NLRB charges are considered by the courts over the coming months.

Last night’s decision in favor of workers and against HealthBridge is one of several that have been handed down in recent months. Administrative law judges have issued two additional rulings finding the company guilty of violating federal laws intended to protect workers’ rights.

 The Labor Board only seeks injunctive relief in the most egregious cases. In 2011, the Board filed for an injunction in fewer than 4 percent of all federal Complaints issued.

Our members were thrilled to hear the news last night and at a meeting held this morning at our union hall in Hartford. “The judge’s decision to grant an injunction validates everything my coworkers and I have said about the horrible way HealthBridge has treated us,” said Eileen Underwood, a nurse at the Danbury Health Care Center. “All we want is to be able to care for our patients and at the same time support our own families, and with this ruling we are one very big step closer to getting back to work, where we belong.”