Christine Stuart photo

Employees at Bloomfield Health Care Center took their voices to the street Monday and let management know they mean business when it comes to wages, benefits, and negotiations.

The 120-bed skilled nursing facility on Park Avenue in Bloomfield voted 68-42 in favor of union representation in 2006. It’s been a month and a half since the National Labor Relations Board certified the results of that election. Workers said Monday that Bloomfield Health Care Center has ignored the union’s effort to schedule negotiations.

Bloomfield Health Care Center’s administrator Steve Barrett said he would email a statement by the end of the business day, but as of 9:39 p.m. no statement had arrived.

Beswick Belnavis Sr., a certified nursing assistant, said “it’s not fair to the residents, it’s not fair to their families, and it’s not fair to us.”

According to the Service Employees International Union 1199, wages at the Bloomfield Health Care Center are well below what nearby nursing homes with unions are paying their employees. Down the street at Alexandria Manor the starting wage for a certified nursing assistant is $14.05 an hour and at Wintonbury Health Care it’s $13.80 an hour, while the starting wage for a certified nursing assistant at the Bloomfield Health Care Center is $11.

Christine Stuart photo

Deborah Chernoff, spokeswoman for SEIU 1199, said, “As weak as the national labor board’s law is, they went through the process.” She said by ignoring the union’s request to negotiate “this employer is saying we’re above the law.”

Antoinette Stewart, one of the certified nursing assistants at the facility, said sometimes there are just “two of us taking care of 30 patients.” She said two years ago when the workers first decided to unionize she was scared of losing her job, but not anymore.

Celina Snell, who has worked at the facility for about 20 years, said before the union “we didn’t have a voice to speak for us.” She said she’s frustrated with the level of benefits offered by her employer. According to SEIU, workers pay about $62 per week for their health insurance, while workers at Alexandria Manor and Wintonbury Health Care pay nothing for their benefits.

“We’re fired up. Can’t take no more!” workers shouted as walked around the entrance of the facility in a circle.

Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez joined the protest, explaining that a lot of the facility’s employees live in Hartford and a lot of the patients are also from Hartford. “We’re supportive of a living wage,” that allows workers to own their homes and pay for their children’s education, he said.