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Federal judge orders Healthbridge to reinstate employees, restore wages and benefits, and bargain with union

A federal judge has ordered a Connecticut nursing home chain to offer reinstatement to approximately 600-700 workers, to rescind changes made to employee wages and benefits, and to bargain in good faith with the union that has long represented its employees

U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny granted the injunction against Healthbridge Management, LLC, at the request of the NLRB Regional Director Jonathan Kreisberg, who has authorized four complaints against the employer alleging a series of unlawful actions at six nursing homes over more than two years. The employees are represented by District 1199 of the New England Health Care Employees Union, SEIU.

The petition seeking the injunction alleged that after 19 months of bargaining, in June 2012, the company unilaterally implemented contract proposals affecting wages, hours,  benefit eligibility, and retirement and health benefits without first bargaining to a good faith impasse. Employees went on an unfair labor practice strike in protest. In mid-July, the employees through their union offered to return to work under the terms of the contract that existed prior to the unilateral implementation,  but the employer refused to bring them back.

In his order, Judge Chatigny found reasonable cause to believe the employer has refused to bargain in good faith, and that there was a “pressing need to restore the status quo” that existed before the unilateral changes were made. Under the order, Healthbridge must make the offers of reinstatement by Dec. 17. The injunction will remain in effect while the NLRB resolves the underlying Healthbridge cases.

Following hearings, two NLRB administrative law judges previously found that Healthbridge violated federal labor laws by, among other things, unilaterally implementing changes to employee wages and benefits and by prohibiting employees from wearing Union stickers protesting Healthbridge’s unfair labor practices,  Judge Steven Davis’ July 20 decision is here, and Judge Steven Fish’s August 1 decision is here. A third hearing before an administrative law judge is now in progress on charges that the employer illegally locked out workers in December 2011 at its Milford facility, and bargained in bad faith by unilaterally imposing its contract proposals without first bargaining to a good faith impasse as required by the National Labor Relations Act.

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