FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(New York, NY) -- On Tuesday, October 18th, nursing home caregivers and theater performers conducted a satirical street theater performance outside of One Centre Street to humorously draw attention to the exploitative practices of the Care One and HealthBridge nursing home corporations. The performance took place during a hearing of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in which the Commission was considering a Certificate of Appropriateness for a high-priced development project proposed by Daniel Straus’ company JZS Madison. Straus’ company recently bought six brownstones from the Whitney Museum for $95 million and plans to convert them to luxury condominiums. Straus, who runs nursing homes throughout the East Coast, needs the Committee’s approval for the project because the buildings are in a historic preservation district.
Two unlawfully terminated caregivers from Care One’s Somerset nursing home facility in New Jersey testified at the Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing, as well as ten neighbors and representatives of Upper East Side community groups who expressed objections to aspects of the project. The Landmarks Preservation Commissioners had substantive concerns about the project and postponed their vote on the Certificate of Appropriateness.
Daniel Straus’ companies Care One and HealthBridge have been subject to several federal Unfair Labor Practice Complaints issued by the National Labor Relations Board, including for unlawfully firing caregivers, for firing housekeepers and then rehiring them at lower wages, and for bad-faith bargaining in negotiations.
“Rich people like Daniel Straus get listened to. But I’m here today asking everyone to listen to me too,” said Gertrudis Rodriguez, who worked for Care One for three-and-a-half years as a per diem Certified Nursing Assistant, and who was removed from the schedule because of her union support. “Daniel Straus’ company Care One took away my employment. All because I dared to stand up for a voice in the workplace to improve working conditions and to ensure good quality care.”
Rodriguez continued, “If Care One and HealthBridge had no respect for workers’ rights or for federal labor law, why would we expect his development company JZS Madison to respect the law or the Upper East Side community?”
Maria Granda, a Certified Nursing Assistant who was illegally fired from Care One after four years of dedicated service, said: “Daniel Straus’ nursing home companies have refused to listen to workers. Care One did not accept the outcome of our democratic election. Instead they illegally fired and intimidated caregivers. I felt like they put corporate greed before caregivers. If Daniel Straus, through his company JZS Madison, can afford to spend $95 million buying brownstones on the Upper East Side, he can afford to give caregivers a voice in nursing homes run by his company, Care One.”
Caregivers and performers began their demonstration at Zuccotti Park with Occupy Wall Street protesters, and then made their way to One Centre Street, leading a procession of workers, OWS protesters and community supporters. Performers dressed in fur coats and shiny suits, and some wore signs that read, “I am the One Percent.” Caregivers addressed the gathered crowds at several points throughout the performance, telling their stories and asking Daniel Straus to support justice for workers at nursing homes run by his corporations, Care One and HealthBridge.
Today’s action was endorsed by Occupy Wall Street’s Labor Outreach Committee and sponsored by the New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199, SEIU, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and UnitedNY.
Daniel Straus, along with his brother Moshael Straus, runs the Care One and HealthBridge nursing home chains in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and other states. According to the most recent data available, Care One-run facilities in Connecticut and Massachusetts generated a net income of over $13.6 million in 2010. Care-One-run facilities in New Jersey generated a net income of more than $23.3 million in 2009. In addition, HealthBridge Management, a company 100% owned by Care One that manages facilities in all three states generated a net income of more than $11.4 million in 2010.
Workers at Care One’s Somerset nursing home facility in Bound Brook, New Jersey voted to form a union on September 2nd, 2010 but Care One refused to accept the outcome of the election. Instead, they illegally fired and disciplined workers for their union support and filed objections to the election victory with the National Labor Relations Board. The Board issued a complaint alleging unlawful disciplines, discharges and interrogations of workers for their union support, and filed for injunctive relief seeking the illegally fired workers to be returned to their jobs. 1199SEIU was certified by the Board as the collective bargaining representative for the Somerset workers but Care One has yet to recognize the Union. Throughout the campaign and proceedings to challenge the Union’s victory, instead of focusing on caring for nursing home residents, Care One wasted resources fighting its own employees and taking caregivers from the residents’ bedsides.
In Connecticut, the Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board issued an 18-page federal Complaint and Notice of Hearing against HealthBridge and Care One, and each of six nursing homes, detailing multiple charges of “interfering with, restraining and coercing employees in the exercise of their rights” under the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act and “failing and refusing to bargain … in good faith” with District 1199. The Complaint focuses on HealthBridge’s discharge of dozens of housekeepers, who were then rehired at lower rates of pay and without their seniority and earned benefits. HealthBridge has threatened to lock caregivers out of their jobs at the six nursing home facilities where they are represented by District 1199-New England Healthcare Employees Union-SEIU, and has proposed to slash safe staffing ratios along with wages and benefits.
For more information, go to CareOneWatch.org
The New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199, SEIU represents 22,000 professional and paraprofessional health care workers in Connecticut and Rhode Island in both public and private sector hospitals, clinics, non-profit agencies, skilled nursing homes and other health care settings, including 7,000 nursing, nursing assistants, dietary, laundry, housekeeping and other support staff in long-term care facilities.
With 350,000 members in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Florida and Washington D.C., 1199SEIU is the largest and fastest growing healthcare union in the country. Our mission is to achieve affordable, high quality healthcare for all.
UnitedNY is a grassroots community coalition that mobilizes working people and the unemployed to call for good jobs and make corporations pay their fair share.