Hartford workers win back pay

Ten years after being locked out by their employer, union workers at Avery Heights Nursing Home began receiving checks totaling $2.55 million in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) settlement. The case has important implications for workers everywhere.

The workers, members of New England Health Care Employees Union District 1199, were locked out after going on strike in November 1999. The workers maintained picket lines for more than two years. Eventually, the NLRB ruled the lockout violated the law because it was an excuse to break the union. The nursing home was ordered to rehire the union members.

In a press release, the union quoted employment law scholar Michael Wishnie “This decision has broad implications for national labor law. For years, employers have used their power to hire permanent replacements as an excuse to try to destroy unions.” In those cases, Wishnie says, this decision means that the union workers have to get their jobs back, and the employer has to pay back pay and benefits.

The legal battle, which lasted most of the last decade, ended when the Supreme Court refused to hear the company’s appeal last October.

Herman Davies, Jr., who has worked in the Avery Heights housekeeping department since 1991, is quoted as saying, “We’ve waited a long time for justice,”Of course the money is important to us after all these years, but it’s even more important to see right win out over might.” Sharon Weir, a nurses’ aide, said, “I am so, so proud. We won. Our fight was not in vain.”

Photo: seiu1199ne


Art Perlo
Art Perlo

Art Perlo lived in New Haven, Conn., where he was active in labor and community struggles. He did research and writing on economic issues in Connecticut, including work with the Coalition to End Child Poverty in Connecticut which helped pave the way for the movement for progressive tax reform in the state. He wrote on national economic issues for the People's World and was a member of the CPUSA Economic Commission.