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Northampton County pushing to sell Gracedale Nursing Home


SEPTEMBER 2010, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Northampton County pushing to sell Gracedale Nursing Home


LEHIGH VALLEY, August 23rd- The decision by Northampton County officials to sell the county’s Gracedale nursing home could be painful for the employees that work at the facility.

On August 19th, the nine member Northampton County Council voted 6 to 2 to seek offers for the 725 bed nursing home which has approximately 650 residents.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union Local 1435 represents around 450 of the Gracedale workers including food service, cleaning and others, while the United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union Local 2599 represents approximately 50 nurses and social aid workers.

The facility is located in Upper Nazareth Township and has around 600 full-time employees and around 150 part-time workers.

Northampton Republican County Council President Ron Angle stated should the union employees give up $6 million of salary and benefits he might back off plans to privatize the nursing home. However, at the August 19th public meeting, Mr. Angle voted to seek offers for the facility.

According to Jerry Green, President of Local 2599, AFSCME has already agreed to the opening of their contract, which does not expire until next year, to allow contract concessions. However, Mr. Green told the newspaper while he will meet with county officials to discuss the situation, his union is not ready to agree to concessions.

“We are always ready to talk. But, just to agree to something is not going to happen,” stated Mr. Green.

One issue that will need to be resolved is the USW contract, which expired in December 2008 but both sides agreed to work under the terms and conditions of the previous pact. In June the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) ruled the county violated the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act (PLRAct) when it reneged on a deal reached between the parties.

The union filed a labor complaint against the county after spending more than a year negotiating for a new contract and reaching a tentative four-year agreement. But, county officials changed their position and killed the deal.

Northampton County Executive John Stoffa was told by an PLRB Hearing Examiner to immediately present the tentative agreement to County Council for its consideration. The deal was reached with the previous council majority.

Mr. Green told the newspaper discussions have taken place between the parties in an attempt to settle the PLRB issue and reach a contract agreement between Local 2599 and the county.

Meanwhile, the selling of the Lackawanna County Healthcare Center nursing home in Lackawanna County by county officials in March has resulted in labor complaints being filed and unilateral labor contract changes being made by the facilities new operator.

Millennium Management LLC of Miami Florida purchased the 272 bed facility from Lackawanna County for $13.4 million and almost immediately began to violate the contract agreement between the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Pennsylvania Union and the employer. Before the purchase the company agreed to recognize the union and honor the pact reached with Lackawanna County officials.

However, the union filed a Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge alleging Millennium Management has refused to talk to the union, process grievances or meet to discuss changes in the employees working conditions.

1 comment so far

This is an outrageous injustice that is anti-consumer, anti-senior, anti-poor, anti-worker and anti-taxpayer!

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