Caregivers Replaced After Nursing Home Strike

By Dan McMenamin (BCN)
Saturday August 07, 2010 - 02:43:00 PM

A group of at least 37 caregivers at two Oakland nursing homes found out they had been replaced after a five-day union strike that ended this morning, a union spokesman said.  

About 150 employees who are members of Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West went on strike Monday at Piedmont Gardens and Grand Lake Gardens nursing homes and were scheduled to return to work this morning.  

However, at least 37 workers found out either Friday night or this morning that they had been replaced by new employees hired during the strike, union spokesman Jarard Kings said.  

Kings said American Baptist Homes of the West, the company that owns the facilities, was "grossly violating federal labor laws" by replacing the workers, and alleged the move was retaliation against employees for striking.  

David Durham, a labor attorney for the company, said that claim was "completely bogus" and that the employees who were replaced were put on a preferential re-hire list in accordance with federal laws.  

"It's completely lawful to replace workers during a strike," Durham said. "The company had to do it because there was no assurance that the union wasn't going to keep striking, and you really can't operate (these facilities) with a continual stream of temporary workers."  

The union has been bargaining for a new contract since February. Details about the employees' health care plans and disciplinary system are the main points of contention in negotiations, which have involved a federal mediator.  

Durham said the union "wants to change a disciplinary system that's been in place for 15 years, and we feel it's an unnecessary intrusion into basic management rights."  

There are no bargaining sessions scheduled in the immediate future, but Durham said he was "hopeful it'll be settled soon."  

A statement issued by the union Friday also expressed an interest in resolving the differences between the two sides.  

"We stood up for our rights with a strike and we want to work things out with management to make these facilities better places to work and receive care," Gloria McNeal, a certified nurse assistant, said in the statement.