Nursing Home Union Brawl

Nursing Homes Appeal Order to Rehire Striking Union Members

SEIU Local 1199 protest / AP
December 14, 2012

Several Connecticut nursing homes have appealed a federal judge’s order to rehire striking union members, some of whom allegedly mixed up the medical records and identification materials of patients during a labor dispute.

"Returning the striking SEIU members to the workplace would expose residents to the very people who sought to do them harm during the July 3 walkout," said Lisa Crutchfield, a spokeswoman for HealthBridge Management Health Care Centers.

"The acts of criminality committed against our residents by some of those going out on strike on July placed our residents in serious jeopardy, and we find it unfathomable that these individuals would be returned to care for our residents before those responsible are identified and prosecuted."

Connecticut state police are investigating reports of vandalism and records tampering at several Connecticut facilities, though no charges have been filed. The union, SEIU Local 1199, has pledged to cooperate with authorities, though no members have stepped forward to identify alleged perpetrators.

The criminal investigation and the company’s federal RICO lawsuit against the union’s tactics did not deter Federal District Court Judge Robert Chatigny from ordering the company to layoff hundreds of replacement nurses and staff so that the union members could be rehired.

The new staff has earned high marks from family members and patients at HealthBridge facilities.

Barbara Recker, whose mother has been a resident at HealthBridge facilities for more than six years, testified that she and her mother preferred the replacement workers to the union members.

"It was an incredibly traumatic experience for my mother and me when the Center’s workers left and went on strike," she said in a court filing. "The staff that was at the Center following the strike went above and beyond [for my mother] … it would be difficult for her and other residents if the striking workers were to come back at this point."

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which has handled the dispute between the union and health facilities, said that it would continue to weigh the merits of the union’s complaint and that the company must comply with the judge’s request.

"HealthBridge must make the offers of reinstatement by Dec. 17," NLRB said in a Thursday release. "The injunction will remain in effect while the NLRB resolves the underlying HealthBridge cases."

The company will appeal the decision to the Second Court of Appeals—the same court to which President Barack Obama attempted to appoint Chatigny in 2010. The judge withdrew his nomination after Republicans objected to his leniency in sentencing child sex offenders, as well as his defense of Woody Allen’s relationship with his then-minor stepdaughter.

"We are acting in the best interests of our residents," Crutchfield said. "Their well-being is paramount to us."