Lengthy Nursing Homes Strike Impacting Many Latinos

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By Wayne Jebian
CTLatinoNews.com

CONNECTICUT — With health care as one of the largest areas of employment for Latinos, a four month old strike by 700 workers at nursing home facilities operated by HealthBridge Management in Newington, Danbury and other locations around the state is impacting a large number of Latinos.

Juan Farfan, a nurse’s aide for 20 years at the Danbury Health Care Center says, ““We’ve got to settle soon; snow will be coming, my wife and I worked there together. Now we have no insurance. Imagine being outside in the winter; we could get sick. It’s going to be hard.”

The winter may come and go before anything is settled. Complaints filed by the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of the striking workers and their union, New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199, are winding their way through federal court. The first ruling is not expected until at least the end of this month, and even a favorable ruling may not translate into results for the workers.

Newington striker Grisel Santos with her daughter Janesa

“It’s not the people here we have a problem with – the managers or the director – they’re good people. We’re like family,” said Farfan, emphasizing that the workers’ dispute was not with their on-site supervisors. “They’re not the problem; it’s the big guy, the owner,” he said.

The roots of this strike are entangled in the system of healthcare compensation in which nursing homes and their employees are ensnared. Last year, the federal government cut Medicare payments to nursing homes by 11 percent.

Faced with this cut in revenue, nursing homes around the country looked to cut costs, and workers’ health coverage was a starting point with a move to shift these costs to the employees, who themselves often can’t afford to pay it.

In a statement to CTLatinoNews.com, Lisa Crutchfield, senior vice president of labor relations for HealthBridge, said, “We had been negotiating in good faith with the union when it chose to abandon negotiations, jobs and our residents. For 17 months, the union made untenable demands while refusing to engage.

“The Health Care Centers’ contract proposals were rooted in simple economic reality. … The economic reality is that our businesses will no longer bend to the lavish demands of a union that still lives in a world of 8.5 percent employee pension contributions and free health insurance. That world is vastly different from the one in which the rest of the country lives.”

But workers like Elodia Rivera, who has worked at the Newington location for 23 years, says…

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