Brius workers fight back against under-staffing

Caregivers at two Brius-operated nursing homes in Marin County sent a message to CEO Shlomo Rechnitz that he must stop under-staffing his homes and start treating his employees and patients with dignity.

More than 30 caregivers and their allies picketed Sunday outside the San Rafael Healthcare and Wellness Center. Patients and nearby residents thanked workers for taking a stand, and Marin County Supervisor Damon Connolly manned the picket line along with representatives of the Marin Association of Public Employees.

San Rafael caregivers, who are represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, have gone more than three years without a contract. During that period state regulators have cited the facility for stocking expired food, admitting residents during a Norovirus outbreak and supplying so few towels and wash cloths that caregivers have had to dry patients with paper towels and bed linens.

Nevertheless, Brius’ recent “last, best and final offer” included cuts to dental benefits and no provisions to increase staffing levels. Caregivers earlier conducted a two-day strike to protest under-staffing that jeopardized patients’ safety and care. Brius management responded by locking out workers the following day.

NUHW-represented workers at the Novato Healthcare Center took their own stand against Brius’ chronic understaffing. With state regulators expected to inspect the facility last week, they informed management in mid-April that they would not work any voluntary overtime from April 29 to May 6.

A nursing home shouldn’t depend on its employees to work extra shifts simply to meet minimum staffing levels. But we’re told that Brius had to bring in at least 20 temporary certified nursing assistants just to keep the nursing home running without its workers completing overtime shifts.

Brius even offered $165 bonuses to work overtime shifts, but workers stood firm.