The personal intervention of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge and the state's Department of Labor apparently achieved what two years of obstreperousness between Beverly Enterprises and its union workers could not: a signed labor agreement.
With 90% of members voting in favor, the Service Employees International Union accepted terms of a new four-year contract last week. SEIU workers had been without a contract at 19 Beverly nursing homes in Pennsylvania since Nov. 30, 1995.
After a brief strike in 1996, the SEIU and the AFL-CIO asked the governor to assist in resolving the dispute. Ridge contacted Beverly Chief Executive Officer David Banks and requested that both parties come to the table. He brought in the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and the state labor department's Bureau of Mediation to smooth the way. On Oct. 22, 1996, the parties agreed on a process to resume negotiations. A breakthrough was reached this past May that resolved the overarching issues. After that, individual contracts were hammered out for each nursing home.
Beverly operates 42 nursing homes in Pennsylvania, of which 19 have SEIU representation.
The SEIU conducted a national corporate campaign against Beverly to try to pressure it to meet union demands. When 1,000 SEIU members carried out a three-day strike in April 1996, Beverly replaced them, leading to lengthy litigation, including reversals and counterclaims, in the federal courts. Ultimately, a federal judge ordered the company to rehire the workers.
The contract has three key provisions, according to the union:
Wage increases of 3% to 5% each year, which should raise the average wage of Beverly workers to $9 an hour by the last year.
Extension of the dental and vision plan to cover full-time workers at all 19 homes and coverage for part-time employees.
A common expiration date for all the contracts. This, one of the union's most insistent demands, had been staunchly opposed by the company.