Over 300 union members at the four OMNI nursing homes in New Jersey have been without a contract since 2007. Two years ago, the owner of these homes, Avery Eisenreich, walked away from the negotiations and unilaterally implemented a number of changes including a loss of pension payments. He is currently being investigated by the National Labor Relations Board’s regional office in Newark for ‘bargaining in bad faith.
This news caught my eye because at a recent nursing home seminar I became aware of a lawsuit recently settled in New Jersey against one of the nursing homes purportedly owned by OMNI. I say purportedly owned by OMNI because during the course of that litigation a New Jersey lawyer, Saul Gruber, discovered a multitude of legal entities set up by Eisenreich to suck money away from the actual nursing home operation by setting up management companies, real estate investment trust and lease arrangements favorably to him.
The union news release reports that the workers at these home work hard to care for the elderly, but because of the low wages, many of them have to work two jobs just to make ends meet. While many Omni workers are paid wages that are less than $7.90 an hour – barely over the minimum wage, the union claims their employer, Avery Eisenreich, pays himself more than $1,500 an hour!
I posted a blog on 2009 about the problem of nursing home owners setting up these multiple legal entities to avoid liabilityand to syphon money away from the operation of the nursing homnes and into their own pocketbooks. I reported that Congress was considering legislation called the “Nursing Home Transparency and Improvement Act which is a part of the draft health care reform bills that the House and Senate are considering. The bills would make nursing homes disclose their owners and operators. At that time I reported that several large chains have been bought out by global private equity investors. Now we are seeing entrepreneurs like Eisenreich taking advantage of the elderly and their caregivers for the sake of making more money. InjuryBoard member Jessica Smagacz posted a blog yesterday on the report from the British Medical Journal that the best care is given at non-profit nursing homes. We now know that a majority of nursing homes are owned by for profit corporations. While our economic system encourages investing and making profits, it should not do so at the expense of elderly patients and without fairly compensating the care givers. The system can work. We have all seen it work and seen excellent care given. There is no excuse for nusring home abuse.
There are few, if any, unions in the South to protect workers in nursing homes. I hope the strike will make Mr. Eisenreich come to the table, treat the workers fairly and allow them to provide the proper care for the elderly. Maybe the word will get out to other owners who are in the buiness of operating nursing homes.
Civil litigation attorney Billy Cunningham practice concentrates on personal injury, wrongful death, nursing home abuse, business litigation, environmental law and insurance matters. He is licensed to practice in the state and federal courts of Alabama and Mississippi, as well as in the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States.