Despite claims from HealthBridge officials that unilateral changes to employee contracts were “perfectly legal”, the 14-page Complaint states that HealthBridge unlawfully implemented those changes “without first bargaining with the Union to a good-faith impasse.”
If the company does not agree to the remedy sought by the General Counsel for the federal agency, the Complaint sets a date of September 10, 2012 has been set for a trial before an Administrative Law Judge, where Labor Board attorneys will prosecute the corporation for multiple violations of federal labor laws.
This is the fifth Complaint issued by the Labor Board against HealthBridge, and the second to focus on what the Board has previously described as “a pattern of bad faith bargaining” in the corporation’s negotiations with the employees union.
In its latest move, the company stopped making contributions to employees’ existing retirement plans, unilaterally cut working hours and time off, and forced employees into different health insurance plans. The new plan would cost many workers an additional $8,000 in new annual premiums, plus more for increased deductibles and co-pays.
The illegal changes forced unionized workers to begin an unfair labor practice strike to resist HealthBridge’s violations of US labor laws. 700 caregivers are now on strike at five HealthBridge nursing homes across Connecticut in Danbury, Milford, Newington, Stamford and Westport in response to the unlawful changes to their contracts.
While HealthBridge attempts to slash benefits and hours for Connecticut workers, it is reporting annual profits of around $45.4 million from its New Jersey headquarters according to the most recent filings from 2010. HealthBridge founders and principals, brothers Daniel and Moshael Straus, are key investors in the companies that lease properties, provide management services, sell pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to their nursing homes; these subsidiaries and related companies were paid a whopping $234 million from HealthBridge coffers in the same year.
Profits from their investments in HealthBridge and its related companies have allowed the Straus brothers to make annual gifts of $1.25m to the Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law at NYU and to purchase $95 million in luxury properties from the Whitney Museum at the same time they cut healthcare benefits, staffing and pay for the low-wage caregivers who provide crucial services for their nursing home residents.
President of the New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199, SEIU David Pickus said, “The Complaint issued by the NLRB today is just the latest evidence of the illegal behavior by HealthBridge designed to line their pockets and marginalize those who care for our state’s seniors. They are denying workers their protected right to bargain, and have imposed conditions that will push many in our communities further into poverty, end access to affordable healthcare and leave workers without resources for their own retirement.”
“One-percenters like the Straus brothers rake in millions each year off the backs of their caregivers and the Connecticut taxpayers who fund the Medicaid and Medicare programs they have used to make themselves rich. It’s time for HealthBridge to get out of our state and let a more caring and responsible operator run these homes in a way that promotes the well-being of caregivers and residents—not the Straus brothers.”
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.