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Bright Day, Historic
Victory As Berlin Rehab
Workers Vote UE


Berlin workers celebrate their historic victory.
Barb Klinger, Cathy Allen, Tanya Waters


Berlin workers celebrate (top photo)

A dedicated, hard-working organizing committee was crucial to the union victory.

Middle photo: Barb Klinger and Cathy Allen from UE Local 278, Grafton County, N.H., came with words of support, as did Tanya Waters from the United Nurses and Allied Professionals. The unionbusters tried to make an issue of the strike at Copley Hospital; a registered nurse from Copley, Waters effectively explained the reasons and value of the strike. Bottom: A dedicated, hard-working organizing committee was crucial to the union victory.

The sun shining brightly in the mountains hedging this central Vermont town on Thursday, Aug. 10 matched the mood of Berlin Health and Rehabilitation employees — but for CLP-REIT, the Canadian-based multinational corporation that owns the nursing home, the day couldn’t have been darker.

At 5:30 that afternoon, workers’ boisterous cheers and bosses’ tears revealed that employees of the 150-bed, for-profit home had overcome a nasty anti-union campaign and voted for UE representation.

What’s more, the 110 licensed nursing assistants, kitchen and maintenance workers had become the first in Vermont and the first in the CPL chain in the United States to organize with any union. This result was hailed as "historic" at an exuberant victory party by Pat Buckbe, an organizing committee member, who added, "Now the folks who actually do the work around here will get a say in how this place is run."

Berlin workers contacted UE in the spring, saying that low wages, short staffing, lack of seniority, inadequate resident care, unaffordable health insurance and lack of respect had to change. "I chose this line of work because I want to care for the elderly, but right now our residents are not getting the care they deserve and we are not being treated with the respect we deserve," said Crystal Breer, a licensed nurse’s aide (LNA) and organizing committee member.

When Breer and a large group of her co-workers met with the administrator to demand that the nursing home respect the will of the overwhelming majority of workers to join UE they were curtly told to shut up. "You speak when I speak to you," the administrator announced. Not content to be seen but not heard, workers at Berlin rededicated themselves to organizing their union.


Rather than respect workers’ democratic choice, CLP-REIT hired two high-priced, out-of-state unionbusting firms. The consultants initiated a systematic campaign of lies, threats, intimidation, bribes and promises in a futile attempt to eliminate majority support for UE. The anti-union campaign included innumerable anti-union meetings and movies, interrogation and surveillance. Workers were threatened with the loss of the in-house day care. It was alleged that the administrator would commit suicide if UE won. (The members of new Local 254 report the administrator is still alive if a bit ticked off!)

Despite the high-powered anti-union campaign, which cost CLP-REIT hundreds of thousands of dollars, the UE organizing committee prevailed by vigorously and systematically talking to co-workers about the issues and publicly challenging the bosses’ lies. "We never stopped talking about short staffing and about being treated with dignity and respect, that’s how we won," said Kerri Abbott, an LNA and organizing committee member.


Berlin Rehab workers enjoyed the support of their community, mobilizing hundreds of local citizens, clergy and elected officials to demand that management respect the workers’ right to organize. U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, a well-known friend of working people, sent a personal letter of support.

Two members of newly organized Local 278, who work for the Grafton County, N.H. nursing home, crossed the Connecticut River to encourage Berlin workers to vote for UE.

Currently, UE Local 254, again with community support, has begun contract negotiations — and hopes to achieve a fair contract in the months ahead.

Berlin Rehab workers were assisted by Field Org. Andrew Tripp and Intl. Rep. Kimberly Lawson, with additional assistance from Field Organizers Heather Riemer and Rachel Wells.

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