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Labor Board Awards $2.6M for Avery Heights Workers
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The final chapter in the long running saga of Hartford’s Avery Heights nursing home looks near. Labor Board officials say 133 workers who went on strike from the home more than ten years ago can receive compensation. WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports.

The workers walked out in 1999, unable to come to terms over a contract. Now they’ll be in line for a share of $2.6 million in a settlement with their employer, Church Homes. The strike lasted more than two years, and the associated picket line became almost a Hartford landmark. Church eventually hired new permanent workers to replace the strikers, and the battle went to the courts.

The second circuit court of appeals eventually ruled that hiring new workers was illegal, and that Church Homes owed the strikers back pay and benefits. Last year, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal, and the National Labor Relations Board was brought in to work out a settlement. Deborah Chernoff is from the New England Healthcare Employees Union District 1199.

"It was justice delayed, but we don’t feel like it was justice denied. More than the money, the principle of dealing fairly and openly with people, and the idea that if you exercise your legal right to strike, and to fight for a better life for yourself and your family, and in many cases for your patients as well – you shouldn’t have your job taken away from you."

Avery Heights did offer to hire back the striking workers, and many of them are still Church Homes employees.

For WNPR, I'm Harriet Jones.