NURSING HOMES: Beverly Cited For Anti-Union Violations
The National Labor Relations Board last week handed down a sweeping decision against Beverly Enterprises, the nation's largest operator of nursing homes, for repeatedly violating employees' right to unionize. The NLRB findings, which Beverly is required to post at its 576 nursing homes nationwide, described a pervasive pattern of 240 illegal anti-union activities, including:
- Announcing wage increases specifically designed to deter union organizing.
- Threatening to revoke the licenses of nurses who took part in union activities.
- Threatening employees with nursing home closures in the event of unionization.
- Interrogating employees to determine their union sentiments.
- Calling the police on off-duty workers that pass out union literature.
Beverly was ordered to cease and desist these actions, "to rescind employee suspensions and pay back pay to workers who were unlawfully disciplined," the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports (McKay, 8/26).
Workers Of The World
The Service Employees International Union, one of several unions that brought charges against the nursing home giant, hailed the decision as one of "only a few cases where this type of broad, nationwide corporate order has been issued against a major company." SEIU International President Andrew Stern said, "Beverly is one of this country's worst, repeat labor law violators. This decision says to Beverly: Enough is enough. Companies cannot bully, harass and threaten workers who are trying to organize" (SEIU release, 8/25). Beverly called the decision "obviously biased," and stated in a release that "[t]he NLRB has a well-established pattern of issuing decisions that blindly support the labor movement" (Beverly release, 8/25).
Shades Of The Past?
The company plans to take the case to a federal appeals court, following the path of a 1994 NLRB case against Beverly that was ultimately dismissed by the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that in the 1994 case, the court "favored individual orders tailored for each facility with violations," rather than a company-wide order (Oakes, 8/26). However, in its ruling, the NLRB "cited evidence of wrongdoing by middle-level and upper-level managers to support its contention" that because labor relations were controlled at the corporate level a national order was warranted. SEIU counsel Judith Scott warned that additional "unfair labor practices at a Beverly facility anywhere in the United States could lead to a contempt citation with fines or jail terms." Additionally, the Post-Gazette reports that "[t]here are several other big cases filed against" the company centered around a 1995 strike at several Philadelphia nursing homes (8/26).
In separate news, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Beverly "has retained attorney Michael Bromberg, a leading expert on Medicare policies and procedures," to represent the company in a federal investigation of the company's Medicare billing practices. Millions of dollars in repayments, civil penalties and even criminal indictments could be at stake, and Wall Street is reportedly nervous. Salomon Smith Barney's Andrew Gitkin said, "They seem to be able to handle it, but you just have to wonder when it takes such a long time for an investigation," which was announced July 23. The Democrat-Gazette reports that the investigation centers on possible fraud at Beverly's California operations (Hughlett, 8/26).
- Beverly Enterprises: www.beverlynet.com
- Service Employees International Union: www.seiu.org
- National Labor Relations Board: www.nlrb.gov