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Latest News - August 2010

August 09, 2010
Oakland senior care home replaces workers after strike
Source: Oakland Tribune
By: Angela Woodall

OAKLAND -- A senior care home laid off dozens of workers over the weekend after replacing them with nonunion employees following a five-day strike that ended Saturday morning.

About 150 employees who are members of Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West went on strike Aug. 2 at the Piedmont Gardens and Grand Lake Gardens senior care homes and were scheduled to return to work Saturday morning.

However, Piedmont Gardens informed at least 38 of the care providers that they no longer had jobs when they showed up Saturday for work. Security guards stopped them at the home's 41st Street entrance, according to Sheila Nelson, a shop steward and two-year employee in the housekeeping department.

Security guards escorted the workers one by one to a hallway inside where Executive Director Gail Reynolds read from a letter informing them of their dismissal, Nelson said. They were told that their names had been placed on a preferential rehire list.

"They're just trying to teach us a lesson so we won't do this again," she said.

The multistory facility includes assisted-living and skilled nursing care and is owned by American Baptist Homes of the West. The Pleasanton-based company operates 35 senior facilities in four states.

The two sides had been bargaining since February over the terms of a new contract. The previous contract expired April 30.

The previous strike happened three years ago when

workers demanded a renewed contract. They resumed their jobs after two days.

"We've never had this problem before," said Gloria McNeal, a certified nursing assistant who has worked at Piedmont Gardens for 21 years. "But there was a different administration."

She said Reynolds is determined not to have a unionized work force. Reynolds did not return calls for comment.

Picketing care providers also complained Aug. 2 that the company targeted workers for voicing concerns about management policies. Employees have been fired for taking five or more sick days annually, according to a member of the SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West bargaining committee.

Union spokesman Jarard Kings said that American Baptist Homes of the West violated federal labor laws by replacing the workers and called the move retaliation against employees for striking.

David Durham, a labor attorney for the company, said the home had to replace them because there was no assurance that the union was not going to keep striking.

Workers, however, notified the home in advance of the strike and were assured that they would not be fired, Nelson said.

Both sides have expressed optimism that they will resolve their differences, but neither side has commented on whether the workers would be rehired.



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