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Breakdown of provisions in contract imposed on HealthBridge nursing home workers
Before and after HealthBridge's unilateral cuts to worker contracts.
If you want an example of how badly the labor-law deck is stacked against American workers, one good place to look is the saga of Connecticut's HealthBridge nursing homes, which has stretched on for well over a year now and encompassed a lockout, a strike over cuts unilaterally and illegally imposed by management, an injunction from the National Labor Relations Board, and two Supreme Court justices—one of them being Antonin Scalia!—rejecting a management appeal to have an injunction stayed. Because the thing is, the workers aren't back on the job.

The HealthBridge workers, who belong to SEIU, earned an average of $15.36 an hour and hadn't had a raise since 2009, but that didn't stop management from demanding they pay thousands a year in new health insurance premiums, along with cuts to sick days, overtime, and more. From December 2011 until April 2012, workers at one of the five HealthBridge nursing homes in Connecticut were locked out over these issues. Then, just months after the lockout ended, management unilaterally imposed a "last, best, and final" contract containing massive benefit cuts. The workers went on strike—a strike management wouldn't let them end, as it turned out.

Since then, the workers have gotten victory after victory, as we'll see below the fold. But none of those legal victories have gotten the workers back on the job. Because HealthBridge faces such minimal penalties that it's worth it to the committed union-busters running the company.

In August, the NLRB ordered HealthBridge to reinstate the striking workers, with back pay. The company did not comply.

In September, the NLRB's charges of law-breaking by HealthBridge went to trial. That trial has not yet been concluded.

Also in September, the NLRB filed an injunction to get the workers back on the job. That injunction was granted in December and the company was ordered to reinstate the workers. The company did not comply.

The company asked for a stay. The judge who had granted the injunction denied a stay. HealthBridge went to an appeals court for a stay. Denied. HealthBridge went to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for a stay, citing the appeals court decision overturning President Obama's recess appointments to the NLRB. Denied. The company then went to Justice Antonin Scalia for a stay. Denied again.

The injunction was granted in mid-December. Nearly two months later, HealthBridge has still not reinstated the workers as ordered. The NLRB's regional director informed HealthBridge that "Unless you advise this office by the close of business on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, that Respondents intend to comply with the District Court's Order as clarified above, I will recommend the initiation of civil contempt proceedings." As of Friday afternoon, the company is saying it will reinstate the workers, but it's not saying when.

This is a case where the NLRB has done its best for the workers. They're still out of work as a direct result of their employer refusing to bargain in good faith while demanding massive concessions, then unilaterally imposing those cuts. They're out of work because their employer has the resources to delay its way through the courts and has the overriding belief that it’s worth the risk to break the union. The HealthBridge workers may get a victory that means something. They may get back to work if the company decides not to push it with the contempt proceedings. They may, ultimately, get some back pay if the trial ends in their favor. But in the mean time, these 600 nursing home workers who make an average of around $32,000 a year have been out of work since June. That’s a far greater cost to them than the cost of doing it to them has posed for their employer. And that highlights the way a law that allows for endless delay and doesn't impose significant penalties ultimately favors those with the money to delay endlessly—business, not workers.

For businesses, the puny fines, the small amount of bad publicity, and even the increased business costs they face in trying to break not just unions but workers can be a cost of doing business. The cost of breaking workers so that they take what you offer in future, however inadequate it is. Breaking them so that they don’t complain, don’t fight for a bigger voice or higher pay or better benefits.

This is a theory embraced by many companies. Walmart springs to mind. American Crystal Sugar. The National Hockey League. They don't need an excuse. The narrowest, shortest-term profit motive is reason enough even for already profitable companies. And workers? For the most part, just treading water will be a victory until labor law changes for the better.

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Comment Preferences

  •  And why has this not lead to a jail sentance? (36+ / 0-)

    Anyone who does not implement a court order is theoretically subject to prison.  I think that may be the best way to resolve this.  Thow the directors and officers in jail.  

    Under capitalism man exploits man, under communism the roles are reversed.

    by DavidMS on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 06:10:13 PM PST

    •  It's not like they did something serious (17+ / 0-)

      like try to sell an ounce of pot.

      Now that would destroy our society..

      Undermining the working stiffs in this country? Never been an issue in any collapsed society in history.

    •  Emphasis on the "theoretically" there (13+ / 0-)

      I've never heard of management getting locked up for violating an injunction.  It's not that complicated:

      1) Dems desperately need labor for GOTV efforts;
      2) Labor totally gets screwed under current law;
      3) Dems let EFCA (labor's latest attempt to modify the law) die despite their large majorities in both houses in 2009-10;
      4) GOP is waging an all-out assault on labor in its traditional Midwestern strongholds; and
      5) Labor's density continued its slow but steady desecent in the most recent figures.

      Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

      by RFK Lives on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 06:37:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  that's kind of what i was wondering. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      "And why has this not lead to a jail sentance?"

      this usually leads directly to a contempt citation, with a one-way ticket to a jail cell, for the offending party, until such time as they decide to follow the court order. i guess the difference here is that they only figuratively flipped the judges the bird, instead of literally doing it. now that would have required serious jail time and a fine!

    •  They never go to jail (6+ / 0-)

      The NLRB has been a toothless tiger which is why management always has the upper hand.  Even when workers win, business still tells the NLRB to go pound sand.

      There are NO repercussions.  The WORST THING that can happen to an employer is having to rehire and pay back wages which is nothing to them at all.  In the mean time workers lose their homes and often, their families.  They lose everything they have because they have just become unemployable (even in a good job market, they'll get a terrible reference and have to admit they were "fired" from their past job).  And they don't get unemployment benefits either.

      THIS is why employers fire union organizers, bully and intimidate union leaders and union members, and why they refuse court orders.  NOTHING EVER HAPPENS!

      And this is why there is a huge and very profitable industry of union busting firms out there advising employers of all the things they can get away with.

      And this is why labor has given the Democrats a powerful warning - particularly after they Dems scheduled their convention in a Right to Work (for less) state - basically a punch in the face to labor.  It's time for the Dems to do something for labor - well past time.  If they don't, labor is going to start shopping for or creating a political party that will.

      There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

      by Puddytat on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 10:17:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Jail for Who? (0+ / 0-)

      You can't put a corporation in jail.  They're people only when convenient for the corporation.  You could try to put the officers in jail, but they always have some excuse like fiduciary duty, or acting on advice of counsel, or "Hey, I'll use stockholder cash to bury this under lawyers until the government just gives up."

      "And the President of the United States - would be seated right here. I would be here. And he would be here. I would turn - and there he’d be. I could pet ‘im." - Lewis Black

      by libdevil on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 06:08:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wait until ACA does this to millions (10+ / 0-)

    I believe Counterpunch is getting the math right.

    What this means is that those Americans with the least or no disposable income are faced in effect with a substantial pay cut. The author provides an example of a 35 year-old with a MAGI of $27,925. The out-of- pocket cost to this person of a Silver level plan (second least expensive) is $187.33 per month. This cost is based on pre-tax income, that is, before income is reduced by payroll and income taxes. There goes the car payment or utility bill. The lives of millions of Americans will change drastically as they struggle with a new, large expense – particularly in an era of no jobs, low-paying jobs and rising cost of living.
    This is probably why HHS is pushing implementation of the basic benefit to 2015 - to avoid a political firestorm in 2014 midterms.

    Now tell me again about how co-ops will be a fine substitute for the public option...

    Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore

    by Minerva on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 06:22:55 PM PST

    •  giving people 10,000 dollars worth of health insur (5+ / 0-)

      for under $200 a month is not the worst thing that can happen.

      Ask any of those people how their finances do when they get sick right now, without insurance.

      The current system is under utter collapse. This is the best we could do. Now we can work on making it better. And there are defacto public options on the horizon already.

      •  Taking away the freedom to take care of your (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        because somebody else has decided what your priorities should be and how you should take care of them is not the best thing, either.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 07:17:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  what fantasy country have you been living in? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          simple serf, sethtriggs

          "Taking away the freedom to take care of your
          because somebody else has decided what your priorities should be and how you should take care of them is not the best thing, either."

          every country in the known world does this. the difference is, we (sort of) have the opportunity to make our desires felt, on election day. presumptively, our elected representatives vote for those things that do the best, for the greatest number of people. it's how we got a post office, a national interstate system, public schools, a national military, airports, marine ports, etc., etc., etc. all of which we, the people pay for.

          when all the provisions of ACA kick in, people at the bottom economic rung will get nearly cost-free health insurance. the "freedom" to do nothing, eventually results in someone else paying the tab, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

          •  You were the one spouting fantasies, smugly (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Australian2, jkp

            secure in the knowledge that people can easily and happily surrender a couple hundred dollars a month, no matter how little they make.

            With friends like you, poor folks don't need enemies.

            LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

            by dinotrac on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 08:08:24 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Correction: not you, but the poster to whom I (0+ / 0-)


            We poor old folks who can't afford good health care tend to get confused sometimes.

            LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

            by dinotrac on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 08:09:18 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  What does a gratuitous attack... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      revsue, sethtriggs

      ...on the ACA have to do with a diary on a labor issue?

      This comment on the ACA just seems grossly out of place.

      Political Compass: -6.75, -3.08

      by TexasTom on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 08:32:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wait. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The people that make the rules make them to, it can't be....only themselves? How do they get away with that?


  •  The minimum-wage worker lobby can't be that strong (0+ / 0-)

    Maybe minimum-wage workers need a special withholding of a tiny percentage from each check to be evenly divided between all federal lawmakers (of the US house and senate, the president should get a cut too, because he has to sign any minimum-wage increase). This is the kind of action it will take (especially now under CU) to get any kind of a serious minimum-wage increase (i.e. give lawmakers a cut of whatever minimum-wage workers make, as an incentive to raise the minimum wage).

    •  If that happened would the min. wage really go up? (0+ / 0-)

      From what that looks like, all that would happen is the lawmakers pocket the difference. Sure, you could spin the numbers to claim an increase, even though at the end of the day the min. wage worker has the same amount of money as before.

    •  They already get about 12% of their true gross (0+ / 0-)

      income deducted so that Congress can have more money to play with.  How much do you really want to stick these people?

      LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

      by dinotrac on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 07:19:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Just link Congressional pay to the minimum (0+ / 0-)

      That would at least make them think about it, though most in the Senate at least are rich enough that they don't give a damn about their paycheck.

      "And the President of the United States - would be seated right here. I would be here. And he would be here. I would turn - and there he’d be. I could pet ‘im." - Lewis Black

      by libdevil on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 06:12:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  So... the workers are striking, politely. (6+ / 0-)

    And legally, and respecting all of the restrictions that owners have gotten into law over the issue of strikes.

    The company continues to operate, profitably, while the workers are locked out and/or on strike.

    Why in the HELL does anyone think that's going to work out for the workers???

    WHY is this company still able to operate, and profitably?  

    WHY haven't these workers made sure that isn't the case?  

    Because as long as labor insists on acting like it's someone else's job to force management to compromise, labor will continue to lose.

    Polite little picket lines across the street will NOT cut it.  That's not what won us labor rights, and its not what will win us BACK our rights.

    *The administration has done virtually nothing designed to reward its partisans. - Kos 8/31/10*

    by Rick Aucoin on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 06:49:17 PM PST

  •  They don't want to pay their workers (7+ / 0-)

    But they are more than happy to pay their lawyers.


  •  But they are forging the New World Order (0+ / 0-)

    Which is more important [forced choice]: filling the Titanic with passengers, or saving them all?

  •  Just wondering, has HealthBridge raised their (0+ / 0-)

    fee's to the folks being cared for?

    Or, have they proposed reducing the fee's for their customers?

    Perhaps their CEO, vice presidents and Board of Directors are receiving social services, food stamps or are about to be homeless?

    Sounds like they are suffering from something, perhaps a mental illness.

    "If you want to make G-D smile, tell him your plans." Vin Scully

    by BrianParker14 on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 07:14:40 PM PST

  •  Laura Clawson (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    does a great job!

  •  37.5h is Full Time, Except (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    37.5 hours is Full time unless You are looking for Overtime - THEN it is 40 hours before You start to earn OT

    37.5 hours is Full Time unless You are Part Time - and You don't get benefits until You are .5 FTE - which is 20 hours, not 18.75 hours

    Just for context - my first real job (earning benefits and all!) - Full Time was 38.75 - 7.75 h / day - which included a paid hour lunch, and 1 15 minute break (the other 15 minute break came out of Your pay check) - and any time over that WAS paid as OT - though I admit - that was more than a quarter century ago

    "I want to keep them alive long enough that I can win them to Christ," - Rick Warren, Professional Greed Driven Scumbag

    by josephk on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 07:24:37 PM PST

  •  NLRB? No problem (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Oh, wait....

    Democratic Leaders must be very clear they stand with the working class of our country. Democrats must hold the line in demanding that deficit reduction is done fairly -- not on the backs of the elderly, the sick, children and the poor.

    by Betty Pinson on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 08:18:03 PM PST

  •  Where is Anonymous (0+ / 0-)

    when they are needed ?

    And make it look like Chinese People's Army doing the dirty deeds. The Pentagon will go bad-shit crazy..........

    "Have you left no sense of decency, sir, at long last?" Army Attorney to Sen. McCarthy, 1954. "We have done nothing to be ashamed of. We have nothing to apologize for." NRA 12/14/2012.

    by bontemps2012 on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 06:14:30 AM PST

  •  Too big to fail; too big to jail. (0+ / 0-)

    Buy Aldus Shrugged : The Antidote to Ayn Rand, and tear Ayn and the GOP new orifices. ALL ROYALTIES BETWEEN NOW AND MARCH 1, DONATED TO THIS SITE, DAILYKOS!! @floydbluealdus1

    by Floyd Blue on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 07:08:56 AM PST

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