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On July 3, after 17 months of negotiation, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) healthcare workers walked out of five HealthBridge Management nursing homes. The dispute, over salary and pension benefits, has led to a dispute that has the SEIU accused of illegal activity and goes all the way to the office of Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy. Last week they, along with CareOne (companies that own and run nursing homes), filed a federal lawsuit calling the union’s campaign against them a shake-down by a lawless enterprise.”
As employees walked out, actions were taken which could seriously jeopardize the health and well-being of those under their care. For example, Alzheimers patients had identifying wristbands removed and photos were switched in patient files to make identification difficult. "The perpetrators took these actions deliberately, with the clear knowledge that they would put residents at severe risk of receiving the wrong medications, improper dosages of medications, or foods they should not eat," said Lisa Crutchfield, a spokeswoman for HealthBridge.
HealthBridge is now suing the SEIU chapter in question (1199) saying “The cycle of extortion will continue indefinitely,” and that “The most likely results of extended extortionate campaigns are poor patient care, unprofitable facilities that may be forced to close, layoffs of union and non-union employees, and monetary losses for the owners of the plaintiffs.”
HealthBridge believes that Connecticut Governor Dannell Malloy pressured them to work with the SEIU, who actively helped to fund his election. “[The] defendants were able to persuade Connecticut Democratic Gov. Dannell Malloy and the Connecticut attorney general’s office to threaten to take the assets of the Connecticut facilities managed by plaintiff HealthBridge under receivership,” the complaint states. Malloy even went so far as to arrange for the delivery of “an unsolicited message from Gov. Malloy’s office to contact a prospective purchaser’s counsel for the sale of the Connecticut plaintiff’s facilities.”
The SEIU is expected to file a motion to dismiss, a motion that will likely fail. Things will get interesting in the discovery phase when the sender of the unsolicited offer may have to testify and everything will be laid bare for all to see. In these cases, the union usually chooses to settle. While that takes care of that specific case, it does not do much to curb this activity moving forward.