HealthBridge Lockout Ends, Victory in Sight for Caregivers and Residents

As pressure from residents, family members, community members and elected officials mounts — and the number of citations from the CT Department of Public Health and National Labor Relations Board pile up by the day — it’s clear that HealthBridge saw that Judgement Day was coming.

That’s why, on March 28, 2012, HealthBridge said that it was ready to bring the real caregivers back home to their residents at the West River Health Center in Milford and end the illegal lockout.  And on Wednesday, April 4, West River workers returned to their same positions, same shifts, same hours, and under the same terms and conditions of the expired contract that was in place before HealthBridge began the lockout, including insurance coverage from Day 1. The CT Post reports:

Union employees returning to the West River Health Care Center on Wednesday after a nearly four-month lockout held an impromptu reunion in the parking lot before the morning shift, hugging, kissing and cheering.

One of the first workers back was Jennifer Toth, who punched in at 6:30 a.m. as part of the kitchen staff. “The residents are glad to have us back,” she said. “They said things haven’t been good without us.”

Rosa Davila cried “Yea, we win!”

Members of District 1199, New England Health Care Workers, wore round, yellow stickers next to their name tags: “Stronger Together: Victory at West River.” […]

Elizabeth Geneus, who has been working at West River for 11 years, said she was happy to return, even as the negotiations drag on.

“The residents were happy to see us again,” she said. “And this is our family — this is our home. Some of them were crying when they saw us today.”

One of the residents, Stella Chizenko, who has been at West River for almost two years, agreed.

“I was thrilled to death today,” she said. “Thrilled to death. You know, when you’re used to a certain group of people, and then they take them away all of a sudden, you feel lost.”

We’ve asked again and again on the picket line, “Who would treat nursing home residents and their caregivers this way?  What kind of people own this home?”  But even greedy people can see when they are getting beat.  They locked us out – but they couldn’t keep us down. We have returned to our jobs with our heads held high, ready to continue our commitment to providing the highest quality care for our residents.  Our struggle won’t be over until we secure a fair contract that provides stability and security for both caregivers and residents.

To that end, we have also proposed a “cooling off” period for the rest of 2012 (or until we reach an agreement, whichever comes first) that would provide that HealthBridge would not lock out its employees or unilaterally implement any changed terms and conditions of employment, while we would agree not to strike at any of its facilities.  (Click here to read our proposal in a recent letter we sent to HealthBridge’s lawyer.) HealthBridge has not yet responded to our offer.

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