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Workers fired during strike could get millions

A ruling Tuesday by the National Labor Relations Board requires an Oakland employer to reinstate 38 union workers and reimburse them possibly millions of dollars after the workers were fired during a 2010 strike, an attorney for the union and officials for the union said.

Eighty workers at senior living facility Piedmont Gardens went on strike over — among others issues — healthcare, pensions and disciplinary policies, from Aug. 2, 2010 until Aug. 7. During that time officials with the employer permanently replaced some of the workers, according to the ruling.

Less than 24 hours before the strike was to end, the employer sent letters or called the employees to tell them that they had been replaced and put on a preferential rehire list.

Piedmont Gardens’ officials from Aug. 3 to Aug. 6 made about 44 offers of permanent employment to employees hired on a temporary basis and on-call employees, the ruling says.

A panel that made the ruling in the case said that it found that Piedmont Gardens’ officials decided to replace the workers to teach them and the union a lesson.

Also, an affidavit by Executive Director of Piedmont Gardens Gayle Reynolds said that she was motivated to permanently replace the workers who went on strike to avoid a future strike, according to the ruling.

A judge in 2011 ruled in favor of Piedmont Gardens, but the case went to a three-member NLRB panel that overruled the judge.

Attorney for the union, Service Employees International Union – United Healthcare Workers West, Bruce Harland said the judge’s decision is not very valuable, but the panel’s decision is:

“This is significant. … This is the law of the land.”

He said every employer in the United States now has to follow the law created in the decision.

Union spokesman Sean Wherley said:

“Yesterday’s decision is victory for those workers and workers across the country who are trying to raise their voice in the workplace.”

Attorney David Durham, who represented Piedmont Gardens and its parent company American Baptist Homes of the West, based in Pleasanton, did not immediately return an email seeking comment on the decision.

A representative of Cornerstone Affiliates, the parent company of ABHOW, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Officials with Piedmont Gardens have 14 days to comply with the decision.

Harland said Piedmont Gardens’ officials can appeal the ruling either to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals or the Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

Piedmont Gardens’ officials said the 60 to 70 temporary employees they hired to keep the business going during the strike cost more than $300,000, the ruling says. The officials added that it would have cost $250,000 to meet the unions’ demands during the three years of a new contract.

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