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Westport Nursing Home Workers Protest Contract

WESTPORT, Conn. – Standing outside for hours in more than 95-degree heat Tuesday wasn't something Eloise Powell and other Westport Health Care Center union employees complained about.

What they can’t stand, however, is their working conditions.

“They cut us down to 37-and-a-half hours a week and are giving us high insurance payments of $500 to $600 a month,” said Powell, certified nurse’s aide and a member of New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199. “Some of the people that work in that building are not even making $13 an hour. How do they expect them to afford it?”

Powell, a 15-year employee at the center, was among about a dozen union employees on strike Tuesday against HealthBridge Management, the facility’s owner. The strike was one of five taking place across the state.

As they marched outside the nursing home at 1 Burr Road, the workers shouted phrases such as, “They say cutback, we say fight back,” and “What do we want? A contract. When do we want it? Now.”

Powell and the other workers on strike said all they want is to be able to renegotiate a better contract.

“They are killing us,” said Yvonne Clarke-Morgan, a nurse’s aide who has been at the facility for 14 years. “We have kids and mortgages — that’s why we’re out here. We just want them to go back to the table with us and work on this.”

In a statement, Lisa Crutchfield, a spokesman for HealthBridge, said the union is on strike because it “failed to pressure” HealthBridge into accepting “unrealistic contract proposals any other way.”

"The actions of the affiliated Health Care Centers to implement their last, best and final contract offers after 35 sessions and almost 17 months of negotiations failed to result in new agreements are fully legal and the union knows it,” Crutchfield wrote.

Powell said she and other workers plan to strike again Wednesday morning and Thursday. “We’re all hoping and praying we can come together and work this out.”

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