NJ 1199ers Stand Up to Union-Busting Private Equity FirmJuly 19, 2021
Workers at Windsor Gardens Care Center in East Orange, NJ held a picket line on May 13 to protest the attempted sale of the facility by the current operator, Windsor Healthcare Communities, to Complete Care Management, a fast-growing private equity-owned nursing home chain.
The initial terms resulting from the sale included elimination of workers’ affordable health insurance plan, their educational and retirement benefits, and much of their paid time off. These terms are in direct violation of the 1199 contract, which requires any new operator to assume the existing terms of employment until a new agreement is reached.
“Right now, our jobs are more important than ever; we care for vulnerable residents who have been separated from their families for so long because of the pandemic,” said recreation aide Deborah Chatmon. “After working at Windsor Gardens for 28 years, the idea that I may lose my health, vision and dental benefits, which are very important to me, is extremely upsetting. I am proud that people call us ‘healthcare heroes,’ but words won’t pay my rent or my medical bills.”
With Complete Care refusing to honor these terms, on the eve of the date of the scheduled transfer of ownership, an arbitrator issued an emergency ruling blocking the sale until Complete Care agrees to maintain the status quo for workers. But the employer has filed court papers asking a federal judge to overrule the arbitrator’s decision.
Complete Care Management is now the largest operator of nursing homes in New Jersey. And the company has previously employed similar union-busting tactics as it assumed ownership of new facilities, gutting workers’ benefits—including quadrupling their health insurance premiums for family coverage—and completely eliminating their pension and educational plans. Yet, even as some workers have been forced into seeking state assistance because they can no longer afford health care for their children, they’re continuing to organize to win back their benefits. Workers held pickets on April 15 demanding that Complete Care institutions honor their contractual obligations to all workers.
“We work too hard for our benefits to be taken away from us. We need our health insurance, our sick and vacation time, so that we can care for ourselves and our own families,” said CNA June Henry. “We are picketing because we are not willing to give up everything that we have worked so hard for.”