[Photo Above: Hundreds rally at Park Place Health Care Center in Hartford, Ct. today for the four hundred 1199 health care workers. They went out on strike six months ago.] Click on photo for full screen.
APRIL 15, 2010: THE STRUGGLE BEGINS
Our hundred members of District 1199, including nurses, nursing assistants, dietary, laundry and housekeeping staff began a strike on April 15, 2010 at four nursing homes operated by Spectrum Healthcare. Spectrum Healthcare is a local nursing home corporation, based in Vernon which operates six nursing homes in the state. The workers, a largely female and minority workforce, average between $13 and $14/hour for most positions after a few years on the job.
Contracts with 1199 covering Park Place Health Center (Hartford), Birmingham Health Center (Derby), Hilltop Health Center (Ansonia) and Laurel Hill Healthcare (Winsted) expired on March 15, 2009. Since the contracts expired, Spectrum has fired or suspended at least 14 union members at the homes with on recourse to arbitration.
[Taycha Trinidad, a worker at Park Place Health Center, with her two children on the picket line.]
Those firings, along with other forms of worker intimidation, are the basis for multiple Unfair Labor Practice Charges filed against Spectrum. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a formal Complaint and Notice of Hearing (similar to an indictment in criminal law) against Spectrum on August 19th stating that the company has repeatedly broken the law and is “failing and refusing” to bargain in good faith.
[Workers and their supports rally - "What do we want? -- CONTRACT!! -- When do we want?-- NOW!"]
THE UNION’S OFFER TO RETURN IS REJECTED
Unlike any of the other nursing home operators with who 1199 has contracts, Spectrum early on threatened to hire permanent replacements for union members who went on strike. The Union made an “unconditional offer to return to work” on August 31. The employer responded by calling only a few workers back, once again violating the law. The case is going to trial and when an administrative law judge supports the Labor Board’s charges, Spectrum will be liable for workers’ back pay, back benefits, and interest. In the meantime, the Spectrum workers continue their daily picket lines in front of all four homes in protest of Spectrum’s unlawful behavior.
[Resident, David Zile joined the rally and is a frequent visitor to the picket line. He has been at Park Place since 2002. Patty Pickus, a worker on the picket line is standing with him.]
OUTPOURING OF COMMUNITY SUPPORT
Since the struggle began there has been a tremendous show of support throughout the state for the Spectrum workers. Elected officials have helped deliver food and contacted the employer to urge a fair resolution; other unions and community groups have walked the picket lines and raised funds; family members and residents of the homes have publicly supported the fight and charged the employer with substandard care from replacement workers; clergy members have spoken from their pulpits to support the workers and attempted to contact owners Brian and Howard Dickstein.
A spokes person for the clergy, the Rev. Stephen Camp of Faith Congregational Church noted that “We are Christians, Jews and Moslems today, united, seeking justice and peace and in solidarity with Spectrum workers who are nurses, dietary workers, housekeepers, laundry workers and with those who understand that justice does lot mean just us, but finding a way for all of us. We not only rally here, but encourage one another by our very presence, to seek the presence of the divine in this struggle. If we stand together we will be together, if we stand apart, they will pick us apart.”
[Photo above: Carmen Boudier, president of New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199 on the picket line.]
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP?
JOIN THE PICKET LINES ANYTIME BETWEEN 6 AM AND 12 MIDNIGHT at the following strike locations:
Birmingham Health Center, 210 Chatfield Street, DerbyCT
Hilltop Health Center, 126 Ford Street, Ansonia
Laurel Hill Healthcare, 106 East Lake Street, Winsted
Park Place Health Center, 5 Greenwood Street, Hartford
SEND A DONATION:
Send a donation to: The 1199 Strike and Defense Fund. Checks should be sent to: District 1199, 77 Huyshope Avenue , Hartford , CT 06106. The union has been on strike since April 15, 2010
Posted and photos by Tom Connolly