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NLRB issues fourth complaint against Connecticut nursing home chain

A Connecticut nursing home chain engaged in a pattern of bad faith bargaining and unlawfully locked out the unionized employees at one of its homes, the NLRB alleged in a complaint issued today.

This is the fourth complaint issued against the employer by the NLRB Hartford Regional Office involving conduct that occurred over the past two years.

The six nursing homes involved in the dispute,  in Milford, Danbury, Stamford, Newington, Westport, and Wethersfield, are owned by Care Realty and operated by Healthbridge Management. Nurses and service and maintenance employees at the homes have been represented for many years by District 1199 of the New England Health Care Employees Union.

A previous complaint, which is awaiting decision by an NLRB administrative law judge following a trial, alleges that the employer violated the bargaining and contractual rights of 48 unionized housekeepers and laundry workers whose work was subcontracted from February 2009 until May 2010. For those 15 months, the employees continued performing the same work for the subcontractor as they had before February 2009. In May 2010, the employer terminated the subcontracting arrangement and “re-hired” the employees as probationary employees, at a  lower rate of pay and without benefits. The employer did this without notice to or bargaining with the Union. The same complaint further alleges that at all six nursing homes, the employer unilaterally changed holiday and overtime pay, hours of work, and benefit eligibility for part-time employees, and laid off employees at one of the homes, again without notice to or bargaining with the Union.

Two other complaints against the same nursing homes involving the same employees are pending before another administrative law judge.  They allege that the employer prohibited employees from wearing union stickers and distributing union flyers protesting the employer’s unfair labor practices in the first complaint, and ceased deducting union dues from employee paychecks following the expiration of the collective bargaining agreements.

While the above complaints were pending, the parties engaged in collective bargaining negotiations for a successor contract at each home. According to the complaint issued today, the employer insisted upon proposals that were predictably unacceptable to the Union; refused to engage in the reasoned discussion of its proposals; threatened to lockout the unionized employees at each home, and actually locked out the unionized employees at its Milford facility, in support of its final bargaining proposals.

Coupled with the extensive unfair labor practices alleged in the three previous complaints, the complaint that issued today alleges that by its overall conduct, the employer has failed to bargain in good faith with the Union in violation of the National Labor Relations Act, and that the lockout of the Milford employees separately constitutes unlawful discriminatory conduct under the Act.

Absent a settlement, the case is scheduled to be heard by an Administrative Law Judge in May 2012.


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