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Avery Heights Strikers From 1999 Get $2.6 Million Settlement

Eric Gershon

April 09, 2010

After more than 10 years, 133 current and former workers at Hartford's Avery Heights assisted living community are about to get their money, more than $2.5 million in all.

The National Labor Relations Board announced the approval Thursday of a final settlement between Church Homes Inc., which owns Avery Heights, and the workers, who went on strike in 1999, leading to a decade of legal wrangling.

Church Homes has agreed to pay $2.55 million in back pay, interest and pension credits to the 133 current and former employees.

The checks have not arrived yet, but are expected shortly, according to Deborah Chernoff, a spokeswoman for District 1199 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents the workers. The union had not yet announced the deal.

"Given how long this has taken, we wanted to actually have the checks in hand," she said. "We're probably a little extra cautious." Patrick Gilland, chief executive of Church Homes, said it could be a couple of weeks before the checks go out.

In a phone message, Gilland expressed frustration with the long battle and offered no conciliatory words.

"We hired permanent replacement workers in order to continue to provide good quality service to our residents," he said. "We felt we did it appropriately and in accordance with the law. I feel that the process of defending our action was biased against us at every step of the way, and our side of the story was given very little consideration."

The final deal was worked out last week, Chernoff said. The U.S. Supreme Court's ruled last October not to hear Avery's appeal of a lower court's decision that it must pay workers back wages, interest and pension contributions.

The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld a National Labor Relations Board ruling that Avery had unlawfully hired permanent replacements for the striking workers.

The Avery workers went on strike in November 1999 over a contract dispute, a protest that lasted 2 years.

Avery eventually offered to rehire all 180 of the original strikers.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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