Approximately 165 workers from striking HealthBridge facilities across Connecticut, their New Jersey colleagues and NYU students held a massive rally outside the company’s headquarters on Thursday to deliver a petition calling on the company to bargain fairly with its employees for a contract that puts patient care before profits.

Approximately 16,000 signatures were collected from residents surrounding HealthBridge nursing homes in Danbury, Milford, Newington, Stamford and Westport, and delivered in person to the company’s headquarters in Fort Lee, NJ.  Strikers crossed the George Washington Bridge, joined by caregivers from New Jersey where the company operates under the name CareOne and by NYU students protesting HealthBridge/CareOne CEO Daniel Straus’ position on the NYU School of Law’s Board of Trustees.  Straus is also the founder of the Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law and Justice at NYU.

“I think students are surprised to hear what someone whose mission is devoted to justice and democracy—what all the money [Straus] has donated to the school is supposed to be for—is really doing,” said Phil Arnonewho is graduate student at NYU.  “He is acting so hypocritical.  He’s profiting and making the money that he donates by exploiting people and denying them basic justice.”

More than 600 Connecticut nurses, aides, and nursing home support staff were forced to strike when HealthBridge slashed workers’ pay and benefits and significantly increased health insurance premiums in the midst of contract negotiations. The changes would cost employees upwards of $8,000 a year, and transfer nearly $30 million from frontline care at Connecticut nursing homes to th ecompany’s corporate coffers in New Jersey. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has repeatedly called the changes “unlawful”, and will prosecute the company on charges that it violated federal labor protections before a judge next month.

“This isn’t just about money,” said Judith Prince who has been a laundry worker at Danbury Health Care Center for eight years.  “HealthBridge is trying to break the union, and is breaking the law in the process.  We’re here to tell Daniel Straus that our communities support us and that they are appalled by his tactics.  These 16,000 signatures don’t lie.”

“Like so many big corporations, HealthBridge doesn’t want to play by the same rules as the rest of us,” said Dan Strahinich, Vice Presidentof the New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199. “But in this country, no company is above the law. It’s time for HealthBridge to do right by its employees—who just want to support their families and provide quality care to residents.”

New Jersey-based HealthBridge operates nine (9) facilities in Connecticut, with dozens more under the HealthBridge and CareOne names in Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

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