One of the nation’s largest for-profit addiction treatment chains, American Addiction Centers (AAC), has illegally locked out workers after failing to reach an agreement for a first contract with nurses and health professionals at Sunrise House in Lafayette, NJ, who are represented by HPAE Local 5629.
Front-line caregivers who had been planning a 3-day Unfair Labor Practice strike (May 24-May 26, 2017) were informed on Tuesday evening that AAC was illegally locking out workers beginning around 8:30 on the evening of May 23. Labor leaders and supporters joined workers at a rally at Noon on the 24th.
“AAC nurses and workers are on the frontlines of the opioid addiction crisis, and are striving to improve safety conditions for patients and workers. This national for-profit chain, AAC, responded with an illegal lock-out, rather than bargain in good faith. Their action is an affront to workers, but also to the residents in need of safe and effective treatment. Despite the lockout, we will continue to bargain for a contract that protects patients and workers,” said Ann Twomey, HPAE President.
The 120 nurses and addiction treatment workers joined HPAE, NJ’s largest healthcare union, in June 2016 and have been negotiating with AAC since last August. Workers’ major concerns include staff shortages, unilateral changes, safetyconditions for staff and patients, and wages.
AAC is under investigation by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for failing to bargain in good faith, discriminating against a worker, and for failing to provide necessary information requested by the union for negotiations. For the entire three weeks prior to the May 24th deadline, the union was available to engage in contract negotiations every day. AAC refused to meet until May 22. During the two days of negotiations that followed, the parties did not reach an agreement.
“Your sisters and brothers in NJ’s labor movement are here in solidarity with you to challenge the illegal lockout and the bad faith bargaining AAC has subjected you to over the last nine months. I applaud all of you for reporting the incidents of violence, harassment, and abuse of workers’ rights that are underinvestigation by state and federal regulators, and I urge you to remain vigilant in bringing to light these deplorable conditions,” said Charlie Wowkanech, President of the NJ AFL-CIO.
HPAE asked the NLRB to grant an injunction against the employer in order to prevent further unfair labor practices (ULPs) that had led to the strike notice. Additionally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a federal agency charged with enforcing safe workplace standards, is investigating complaints about conditions at Sunrise House.
“During the height of an opioid addiction crisis, treatment facilities such as Sunrise House must be held to high standards of care so patients can successfully recover in a safe and therapeutic environment, with enough qualified staff. These frontline caregivers are standing up to provide a secure and safe environment so patients can receive safe and effective treatment. Sacrificing patient care and harming workers for the sake of benefiting the financial interests of the owners of the company isunacceptable”, said Twomey.
At the rally, workers shared stories of mistreatment at the facility. Similar stories can be found at a YouTube channel highlighting examples of the practices workers are demanding AAC address to improve working conditions and protect the rights of workers.
Bargaining between the workers and AAC administrators will take place again on Friday, May 26th. AAC refuses to say when the illegal lockout will end.
HPAE is the largest union of registered nurses and health care professionals in New Jersey. Since its founding by Englewood Hospital nurses in 1974, HPAE has expanded across the state and into Southeastern Pennsylvania representing 13,000 nurses, social workers, therapists, technicians, medical researchers, and other health care professionals in hospitals, nursing homes, home care agencies, blood banks, and university research facilities. HPAE is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO.
For immediate release: Wednesday, May 24, 201
For more information: Bridget Devane, (732) 996-5493