Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Nursing Home Strike Possible

State Meets with Union: Contracts Expire Tonight

Nursing homes in Connecticut are on the verge of another strike:

Contracts covering about 4,000 workers, ranging from nurses to laundry staff, at 34 private nursing homes across the Connecticut are set to expire at midnight Tuesday. The 34 homes represent a little more than half of the unionized nursing homes in the state.
Deborah Chernoff, a spokeswoman for District 1199, said the union could set strike deadlines on Tuesday.

She said nursing home owners have not been willing to negotiate, and have proposed contract changes that would ultimately hurt the workers, including higher insurance premiums. (AP)

The situation is reminiscent of 2001, when strikes were held at nearly 40 nursing homes following the expiration of a large batch of contracts. This sort of massive and visible strike is exactly the situation the state wants to avoid, for even though the negotiations are between the nursing home owners and the union, the massive amount of Medicaid dollars the state funnels into these facilities gives them a significant interest in the outcome.

The state also tends to take a lot of heat if a strike occurs, partly because the the state has been seen to be on the side of corporate nursing home owners, but also because the state is more visible and accountable to the public than distant corporations.

A strike is very likely, in my opinion, because most corporations who own nursing homes, while not quite the moustache-twirling cartoon villans who tie old folks to the tracks and giggle that the union describes them as, do tend to be greedy, selfish and stubborn. Nursing home staff are overworked and underpaid, the facilities are constantly shorthanded and administration is terrible at best. It seems unlikely that the union's demands will be met.

Governor Rell is going to have to navigate a potential strike very carefully, and hope that the situation doesn't turn into a catastrophe.

Source: "Governor Rell hopes to avoid nursing home strike". Associated Press 15 March 2005.

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