Beverly Enterprises shareholders have voted down a union-backed proposal that would have required company executives to provide details of all Beverly's pending and settled lawsuits involving patient care at its nursing facilities.
The proposal, which shareholders defeated by a three-to-one margin May 19, recommended that Beverly's board of directors issue a report listing all ongoing and settled patient-care-related lawsuits involving the company. The request was made on behalf of independent shareholder Robert Harbrant, who also is president of the Food and Allied Service Trades Department of the AFL-CIO.
But Beverly executives opposed the measure. The Fort Smith, Ark.-based company said shareholders opposed the plan because they recognized it as part of a thinly veiled campaign by FAST to unionize its nursing facilities.
"What the unions are doing-and we're one of the few corporations the unions have targeted this year-is to continue to exert a great deal of pressure on management because they figure it's easier to have management give in (to their demands)," said Robert Pommerville, Beverly's senior vice president and general counsel.
Approximately 12% of Beverly's 800 nursing facilities are unionized, executives said. Figures on the number of union employees weren't available.
Improving patient care at nursing homes-specifically facilities owned by for-profit nursing home chains-has become a common battle cry of union organizers, many of whom insist that patient care won't be improved without a better-paid labor force.
Earlier this year, the merger between Horizon Healthcare Corp. and Greenery Rehabilitation Corp. was put on hold after officials from the Service Employees International Union and patient advocacy groups lobbied against the deal, arguing that it would lower the quality of patient care in Massachusetts (Jan. 3., p. 17). The SEIU didn't represent workers at any of the nursing facilities but took part because of its nationwide campaign to improve staffing levels at all nursing homes.