NEWINGTON - The Second Circuit Appeals Court ordered last week that striking nursing home workers be allowed to return to work, the latest legal defeat HealthBridge Management has taken in fighting an injunction mandating that the 600 or so employees that walked out in July be reinstated, but the company refused to go quietly.
HealthBridge upped the ante again, this time appealing to the Supreme Court for an emergency stay of the order. The request went to Justice Ruth Ginsburg and was subsequently denied, but they did not stop there--the company proceeded to re-submit the appeal to Justice Antonin Scalia.
“I don’t know how much longer they can go shopping for someone to give them the answer they want,” said Deborah Chernoff, Communications Director of the New England Health Care Employees Union Tuesday. “They’ve made it very clear that they will do anything to not comply.”
On last Wednesday morning, Feb. 6, Scalia drove the last nail into HealthBridge’s coffin--their appeal was denied.
“While we are disappointed in the decision, HealthBridge-managed health care centers intend to comply with the District Court’s order,” said HealthBridge Senior Vice President of Labor Relations Lisa Crutchfield in a statement released by the company. “As always, our primary concern is with the care and well-being of our patients. Throughout this process our guiding principle has been to provide the highest standard of care and safety to our patients.”
Further refusal to comply could have landed the company in civil contempt of court, the National Labor Relations Board had warned them.
“HealthBridge has come to the end of their legal road,” said David Pickus, President of the New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199 in a statement. “They have wasted untold millions of Medicare and Medicaid dollars meant for the care of the elderly on spurious appeals, but their arguments have been soundly rejected at every step. Now one of the most conservative justices of the highest court in the land has turned down their last desperate bid to evade responsibility for their unlawful actions and attempts to set themselves above the law. Justice has been delayed long enough--it’s past time our members were back at work caring for the people they love and miss.”
HealthBridge had been resisting the injunction, claiming that patients would be endangered by the return of the striking workers, who they say tampered with resident name tags before walking out. Testimony from Lorraine Mulligan, a nurse that was called in to assess the impact of the strike at the company’s Newington, Danbury, Westport, West River, and Stamford facilities, alleged that the nameplates of 14 dementia patients were switched.
“The court order makes it all the more urgent for the office of the Connecticut Chief State’s Attorney to complete its investigation of the union workers who committed acts of sabotage against patients when the workers went they went out on strike in July 2012,” Crutchfield said in the statement.
The Second Circuit court rejected this argument, pointing to the fact that some employees, throughout the course of the strike, returned to work, a move that HealthBridge did not object to.
The dispute between union members and their HealthBridge employer began over higher insurance deductibles, a switch from an employee pension system to a 401K, and reduced hours and sick days, amongst other measures, imposed under a new contract that was put into effect after the company closed negotiations, prompting the strike.