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Vermonters Protest Unionbusting
Waste of Health-Care Funds


Deb Peatman, Local 254 steward, talks to press.

Deb Peatman, Local 254 steward, talks to press.

When the workers at the Berlin Health and Rehabilitation Center in Berlin started organizing with UE in the summer of 2000, management hired the most notorious unionbusters in the health-care industry, Connecticut-based law firm Jackson & Lewis. Although the new UE Local 254 succeeded in winning a union election and a 17-month struggle for a first contract, Jackson & Lewis went home with more than half a million dollars — money that mostly came from Medicare, Medicaid and other public sources.

After nurses at Vermont’s largest hospital organized with the American Federation of Teachers last October, Jackson & Lewis decided that there was more money to be sucked out of the Vermont health-care industry. To drum up business, the unionbusters sponsored a seminar for health-care management on remaining "union free" here Dec. 10.

UE members, along with many other Vermonters, denounced this brazen attempt to redirect health-care money from providing care to the pockets of rich lawyers. At a press conference the day before the seminar, Local 254 members Kerry Abbott and Deb Peatman joined unionized nurses, state representatives and religious leaders at a press conference to express outrage that the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems — an employers’ group — co-sponsored the seminar. (Abbott’s remarks are at right.)

The next day, Peatman, District Two Pres. Peter Knowlton and Sec.-Treas. Jonathan Kissam, and several UE staff joined a noisy picket in front of the hotel where the seminar took place.

Remarks by Kerry Abbott
UE Local 254 • December 9, 2002

My name is Kerry Abbott and I am a Licensed Nurses Aide and Unit Secretary at Berlin Health and Rehab, a for-profit facility owned by a Canadian corporation called CPL-REIT.

In the summer of 1999 a majority of the LNA’s, Unit Secretaries, Kitchen, Daycare and Maintenance workers at Berlin Health and Rehab joined the UE because of chronic understaffing, poverty wages and to protect our benefits.

Instead of recognizing our majority, the corporate bosses in Connecticut and Canada hired the notorious unionbusting law firm of Jackson-Lewis to try to prevent us from winning our union election and then to try and prevent our winning a first contract.

I am happy to report that even though CPL-REIT is estimated to have spent a half of a million dollars of our health care dollars and committed numerous unfair labor practices, we are still here and negotiating our second union contract.

One of the key reasons we organized our union is to address chronic short-staffing and improve patient care. When our friends and family need hospital or nursing home care it is the nursing and support staff that makes sure they are cared for. It is important for the health of all Vermonters that we are organized and able to speak out for better care.

The Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems should have the same goals. It is just plain wrong that they are sponsoring a forum with Jackson Lewis to try to keep other groups of employees like us from exercising our democratic right to form a union. We urge legislators to stop our health care management from spending our money on anti-democratic unionbusting and we call on the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems to drop its sponsorship of this Jackson Lewis unionbusting seminar.

UE News - 1/03

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