HARTFORD - Twenty-one labor, community, elected officials and clergy members were arrested by Hartford police Tuesday for blocking the entrance of Park Place Health Center in support of District 1199 Spectrum strikers.
Hundreds of other vocal strikers and supporters attended the rally, held on the 48th day of the strike of nearly 400 workers against four nursing homes in Connecticut owned by Spectrum Care, a local corporation run by Brian and Howard Dickstein along with Sean Murphy.
The workers' stayed on the job for over a year after their contract expired although the company fired, suspended and intimidated dozens of workers lacking full union protection. District 1199 has filed charges of illegal activity and unfair labor practices by the company with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
At 36 other nursing homes owned by other companies covering 2,000 long-term care workers in Connecticut, contracts were successfully negotiated with no job actions. "Spectrum is the only company who has engaged in these massive unfair labor practices -- that's why there are strikes at Specturm's homes, but no strikes at any other nursing home," said District 1199 Vice President Almena Thompson.
All the homes on strike were cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for illness and injury rates "more than twice the national average among all US workplaces." Thompson said Spectrum's proposal includes cutting pay to $10 an hour for workers injured on the job if lighter duty work is required.
The strikers have received wide solidarity including a Hartford City Council resolution of support passed unanimously on May 24. The resolution calls upon Specturm owners not to hire permanent replacement workers, to pay for police picket line overtime, and to settle a fair contract. Hartord City Council member Larry Deutsch (Workinf Families Party) was among those arrested in the civil disobedience.
A joint statement by those who were arrested noted in part:
"We are here today as a witness for justice. For almost seven weeks, these nursing home workers at Park Place Health Center have been walking the picket line for a fair contract, for dignity, and for respect. The nurses, nurses' aids, dietary, housekeeping, and laundry workers at this facility have overwhelmingly voted to make sacrifices now in order to protect, in the long term, those hard-won gains their families count on. These workers have joined nearly 300 other Spectrum workers in the same fight from Derby, Ansonia and Winsted nursing homes owned by Spectrum.
"Dr. King provides an exemplary model for our action here today. He not only fought for civil rights, he walked picket lines for labor rights as well. He said that 'It may well be that the greatest tragedy...is the silence of the so-called good people.' Justice demands that these workers' stories be told, and that we publicly join our voices to support them."
Supporters are welcome at picket lines between 6 AM and 12 midnight. The strike locations are:
Birmingham Health Center, 210 Chatfield Street, Derby
Hilltop Health Center, 126 Ford Street, Ansonia
Laurel Hill Healthcare, 106 East Lake Street, Winsted
Park Place Health Center, 5 Greenwood Street, Hartford
Photo: Tom Connolly