By Tom Hals
Feb 26 (Reuters) - Five nursing homes in Connecticut filed
for bankruptcy seeking to quickly impose temporary new
employment terms on their unionized workers, just weeks after
the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene in their labor
On Feb. 4, the U.S. Supreme Court denied an emergency
application by the nursing homes' operator, HealthBridge
Management LLC, which wanted a stay of a federal court
injunction reinstating 700 striking workers.
The nursing homes said in a filing Sunday with the U.S.
Bankruptcy Court in Newark, New Jersey, that they cannot obtain
a $5 million bankruptcy loan needed to keep the doors open if
they are unable to impose the temporary terms on the union.
HealthBridge itself did not seek bankruptcy.
Imposing new terms would save the homes $1.3 million per
month, according to court documents. "Without the interim
modifications, the debtors will be required to cease operations,
relocate all of their patients and terminate all of their
They have requested a Friday hearing before U.S. Bankruptcy
Court Judge Donald Steckroth.
"Since the appeals process didn't work in its favor, the
company is now trying to use bankruptcy to avoid its legal
obligations to employees under the injunction," David Pickus,
the president of the New England Health Care Employees Union,
said in a statement.
He said if the homes are in such dire financial straits, the
state should put them into receivership.
The union represents the workers at the five nursing homes,
the Long Ridge of Stamford, Newington Health Care Center,
Westport Health Care Center, West River Health Care Center and
Danbury Health Care Center.
While companies often ask bankruptcy judges to impose new
terms on a unionized workforce, such requests generally come
after the company has spent months negotiating with its unions
in bankruptcy. Several bankruptcy attorneys told Reuters they
had never seen such a request along with the initial motions in
The labor problems at the nursing homes have been simmering
The collective bargaining agreements expired in 2011. After
talks on a new contract hit an impasse, the nursing homes'
management company imposed modified terms on the union, which
responded by striking.
Eventually, a federal court in Connecticut ordered the
management company to reinstate the union workers under the
terms of the expired bargaining agreement. That order takes
effect on Sunday.
Other companies have filed for bankruptcy with union
contracts as a central focus, most notably Hostess Brands. The
company famous for its Twinkies snack cakes is currently
liquidating after it received court approval to impose new terms
on its unions, which then went on strike. Hostess said it was
unable to reorganize, blaming the union walk-out.
The lead nursing home case is 701 Long Ridge Road Operating
Company II LLC, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for New Jersey, No.
For the debtor: Michael Sirota of Cole Schotz, Meisel,
Forman & Leonard.
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