Handpicked Cedar Haven owner lost control within months, to county’s surprise

Source: Daniel Walmer, Lebanon Daily News, January 26, 2018

The Lebanon County commissioners took great efforts in 2014 to ensure they sold the county-owned nursing home into good hands – but within months, those hands had been forced out of any involvement with Cedar Haven. Now, the union representing Cedar Haven nurses is involved in a bitter, three-month-old strike with current owner Stone Barn Holdings and its managing partner Chas Blalack. Union leadership says the county commissioners deserve some of the blame for not sufficiently scrutinizing the financial situation of the purchaser when it sold the home. …


Lebanon County Commissioners letter to Stone Barn Holdings, the group that owns Cedar Haven
Source: Lebanon Daily News, January 26, 2018

The following is a letter from the Lebanon County Commissioners sent Jan. 18 to the owner of Cedar Haven nursing home, Chas B. Blalack with Stone Barn Holdings. …

Two months in: When will the Cedar Haven strike end?
Source: Daniel Walmer, WITF, December 21, 2017

The Cedar Haven Healthcare Center nurses’ strike reached its two-month point this week with little fanfare from the union – but behind the scenes, there have been nurses crossing the picket line, an aborted attempt at a negotiation and business dealings by Cedar Haven’s owner. … Here are the basics: There is still no contract agreement on the horizon. The parties met for a mediated negotiation session on Dec. 4, but Cedar Haven owner Stone Barn Holdings rejected it despite “movement” on the part of the union, said AFSCME Council Director Steve Mullen.

‘One day longer’: Union pledges to outlast Cedar Haven owner in four-week-old strike
Source: Daniel Walmer, Lebanon Daily News, November 17, 2017
The local union president for striking Cedar Haven employees thanked her fellow nurses at a rally Friday – but she also issued a dire warning to any who might be thinking of crossing the four-week-old picket line.  “If we lose this fight, like people have said, where on earth are people going to bring their loved ones for quality care?” Penny Kleinfelter asked. “If we would, somehow, lose this fight, I would hold everyone who crossed that picket line responsible for helping to ruin Cedar Haven’s future.”  Union officials said they haven’t received any new offers from nursing home owner Chas Blalack of Stone Barn Holdings. In fact, Kleinfelter said Blalack’s alleged unwillingness to negotiate may now not only be about the contract – which reduces paid time off and substantially increases employee costs for health insurance – but also about breaking the will of the union. … The lengthy standoff has caught the attention of regional and international union leaders for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Officials announced that the international union is donating $10,000 to support strike operations, while AFSCME Council 13 is donating another $10,000. …

Because They Care: Cedar Haven Workers and Residents Stand for Dignity
Source: Secretary-Treasurer Elissa McBride, HuffPost, November 14, 2017
It’s not easy for workers to stand up to powerful bosses in our country today. Too often, the deck is stacked against them. But when healthcare workers and the people they take care of join together on the picket line, you know something extraordinary is going on. That’s exactly what is happening at Cedar Haven nursing home, where residents are joining nurses, nursing assistants, and support staff and making a powerful statement about dignity for all. … The staff of Cedar Haven are care takers, whether for the facility’s residents, their own children or their aging parents. The vast majority of the 300 employees are women, many of them single mothers. Blalack’s unilateral decision to increase their health care costs is a mark of disrespect to the people who provide top notch care to the residents of Cedar Haven. After Blalack refused to negotiate, they took the only action they could: they went on strike.  When I joined the strikers on the picket line last week, several residents were on hand, showing their support. …

Two weeks in, Cedar Haven strikers are prepared for Christmas
Source: Daniel Walmer, Lebanon Daily News, November 3, 2017

A labor dispute at Cedar Haven shows no signs of abating two weeks after nurses went on strike. If you need proof, consider this: AFSCME Local 2732 President Penny Kleinfelter has placed an artificial Christmas tree along the Fifth Avenue picket line in preparation for the holiday season. Kleinfelter said she isn’t trying to send a message – she’s just decorating, since she usually puts up her Christmas tree at home at the beginning of November. But she hopes Cedar Haven ownership understands the strikers are “in it for the long haul.” … Some union members have applied for unemployment compensation, and the union is defending their claim on the basis that they went on strike to protest an unfair labor practice, said AFSCME council director Steve Mullen. The union has maintained that owner Stone Barn Holdings bargained in bad faith by implementing a new contract even though it was voted down by union members and while negotiations were still ongoing. …

No end in sight as rally marks one week of Cedar Haven strike
Source: Daniel Walmer, Lebanon Daily News, October 27, 2017

Employees from other local unions joined Cedar Haven employees Friday for a rally to mark one week since the beginning of a nurses strike that has no sign of ending soon. Steve Mullen, council director for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said there has been not yet been any movement by Cedar Haven ownership that would lead to a conclusion of the strike. “We reached out to them and asked them if they wanted to sit down and talk with us, and they said only if we’re willing to take (the contract) they’ve already given us,” Mullen said. Hundreds of protesters lined both sides of 5th Avenue at noon Friday, chanting “because we care,” and encouraging cars to honk their horns in solidarity. The rally featured heavy hitters like Elissa McBride, international secretary-treasurer of AFSCME, and Rick Bloomingdale, president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO. …

“It sucks in there”: Residents on conditions at Cedar Haven as strike continues
Source: Daniel Walmer, WITF, October 25, 2017

Cedar Haven residents expressed frustration Wednesday with the quality of care they are receiving as the nurses strike at the facility entered its sixth day. Marion Weiant has never had cause to complain about the quality of nursing care at Cedar Haven – until now, she said. Since the strike began, Weiant, a three-year resident at Cedar Haven, said she is often not properly wiped after being changed, causing her concern about getting sores. Nurses also haven’t gotten her out of bed until 11:30 a.m., more than two hours later than normal, she said. … The nursing home is currently being staffed with nurses from U.S. Nursing Corporation. Richard Boyer, another resident, said the temporary nurses “seem nice enough,” but “it’s not the same as the regular crew.” … The three residents were holding signs while attending the picket line in support of the nurses Wednesday afternoon. The nurses are protesting a contract implemented by Cedar Haven owner Stone Barn Holdings that reduces paid time off and substantially increases employee contributions to their health insurance. … To this point, Cedar Haven owner Chas Blalack has not agreed to sit down for additional negotiations, so the strike is expected to continue, said Steve Mullen, council director for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. …

‘It’s a zoo right now:’ Loved ones question temporary nursing at Cedar Haven
Source: Daniel Walmer and Merriel Moyer, WITF, October 24, 2017

Nurses continued to demonstrate outside Cedar Haven Monday, but according to loved ones of residents, the impact of the labor dispute can be felt inside because they say patient care is declining. Sarah Allwein is a former nurse at Cedar Haven, so she knows how difficult it is to provide quality care. She also knows that her companion, who is in the home’s dementia unit, isn’t receiving the same level of care he had before Cedar Haven nurses went on strike. “It’s a zoo right now, and I pity the residents, because they’re getting the dirtly end of the deal,” Allwein said. … Allwein’s concerns are just one of many complaints about quality of care relayed by family members to the union representing the employees, said AFSCME council director Steve Mullen. He was sure to be clear that those reports from family members were not confirmed independently by the union. … Meanwhile, there is no end in sight to the strike. Mullen said Monday that employees are “still waiting for the employer to come to his senses and sit down at the table with us.”

Cedar Haven nurses strike, but struggle with leaving residents
Source: Daniel Walmer and Jeremy Long, WITF, October 20, 2017

Around the perimeter, meanwhile, nurses belonging to American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2732 held signs with messages like “be fair to those who care.” Chants included “patients before profit” and “five stars because we care,” a reference to the nursing home’s five-star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. … Cedar Haven nurses threatened to strike in 2016 but the work stoppage was averted when employees narrowly approved a contract. This year, however, Stone Barn Holdings not only asked employees to give up too much but was “bargaining in bad faith” by implementing the new contract before reaching a deal with the union, according to AFSCME council director Steve Mullen. Mullen said he did not know how long the strike would last.

Cedar Haven nurses prepare for Friday strike, say contract issues still unresolved
Source: Daniel Walmer, Lebanon Daily News, Updated 5:17 p.m. ET Oct. 17, 2017

Employees at Cedar Haven Healthcare Center Monday began preparations for a strike as they said a contract dispute with the nursing home’s owner still remains unresolved. Members of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2732 – which represents employees, including many licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants, voted Oct. 9 to strike over rising healthcare costs and decreased time off in a proposed contract. However, they had to give a 10-day notice, meaning the earliest they could strike would be this Friday….. The primary issues in the contract are “substantial” increases in the health care costs for employees and cuts to the amount of paid time off employees receive, according to Mullen….

Cedar Haven employees vote to strike over contract issues
Source: Daniel Walmer, Lebanon Daily News, October 10, 2017

For the second straight year, employees at Cedar Haven Healthcare Center are threatening to strike after unsuccessful contract negotiations. American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 2732 provided a 10-day notice of a strike Tuesday morning to nursing home management after an “overwhelming” vote in favor of a strike, according to district council director Steve Mullen. … “Last year, the employees gave up a tremendous amount, and this year, the employer came back and asked them to give up a lot more, and it’s just more than the employees can bear,” Mullen said. “For several months, we’ve been bargaining in good faith and we still hope we can come to an agreement and avoid a strike, because a strike is not good for the employees and it’s not good for the residents either.” …

Cedar Haven employees approve contract
Source: John Latimer, Lebanon Daily News, October 20, 2016

Employees at Cedar Haven nursing home have approved a new contract, avoiding a threatened strike. The employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District 89 ratified the contract on Monday by a narrow margin, according to a union representative. Terms of the one-year deal were not released. … The union, representing about 300 employees, has been working without a contract since Oct. 1 and had threatened to strike on Oct. 15 after rejecting a previous contract offer from Cedar Haven owner, Chas Blalack of Stone Barn Holdings. That contract offer eliminated an employer-paid healthcare plan, replacing it with others plans with larger premiums and/or deductibles, and changed overtime and vacation policies. …

Lebanon County nursing home workers avert strike, approve contract
Source: Barbara Miller, PennLive, October 17, 2016

Union workers at Cedar Haven nursing home in Lebanon County averted a strike after narrowly approving a new contract Monday.  The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees LOCAL 2732 negotiated a 50 cent pay increase for workers who had not already received one, reduced proposed cuts to vacation time and preserved the home’s overtime provision, said Steve Mullen, Director of AFSCME District Council 89. … The current contract expired Sept. 30. Changes in health care benefits had been a point of contention in contract talks, said the union. The facility employs about 300 full- and part-time staff, and has about 325 residents. …

Cedar Haven owner responds to strike threat
Source: John Latimer, Lebanon Daily News, October 10, 2016

The owner of Cedar Haven has responded to a strike threat issued this week by the union representing  300 full- and part-time employees of the South Lebanon Township nursing home. On Thursday, American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 2732 announced that its members, including many licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants, had rejected a final contract offer and would walk off the job at 7 a.m. Oct. 15. The union’s representative, Steve Mullen said the contract offered by Cedar Haven’s owner, Stone Barn Holdings, gave a quarter an hour raise but eliminated some benefits, including a fully-funded employee health care plan, which would cost employees about $5,000 to replace. On Friday, Chas Blalack, a principal owner of Stone Barn Holdings, which purchased Cedar Haven from Lebanon County in 2014, shared a letter with the Lebanon Daily News that was sent to all employees. … The letter, which can be read in its entirety at cedarhaven.healthcare/letter-to-all-employees/, explains that the county sold the nursing home because it was operating at a loss, and it continues to do so. … The letter goes on to explain that during the course of negotiations over the past several months, the union was informed of the challenges facing the nursing home, including rising overtime and health care costs, and necessary capital improvements. It also points out that while contract negotiations were underway in June, many employees received significant raises that increased payroll expenses by $1 million. … The letter produced a predictably harsh response from union representative Mullen, who had a different interpretation of why some staff received raises this summer. “This was not given out of the kindness of their hearts,” he said in an email. “The facility was short staffed and could not hire employees because of low pay. This resulted in high overtime cost for the facility since 2014.” Mullen noted that “the cuts far outweighed the pay increases he gave to the LPNs and CNAs.” …

Cedar Haven employees threaten to strike
Source: John Latimer, Lebanon Daily News, October 3, 2016

Care givers and other employees at Cedar Haven have voted to strike over a contract dispute with the nursing home’s owner that cuts health care and other benefits. Negotiations on a new contract have been going on since mid-summer and have been described as contentious by several knowledgeable sources who wished to remain anonymous for fear of losing their jobs. According to contract documents sent to the Lebanon Daily News, the union rejected a contract offer that eliminated free health care for employees, eliminated four personal days and changed overtime, vacation and sick day rules. The health care plan with the lowest deductible would cost employees about $212 per pay period, or more than $5,500, according to the documents. … The facility’s licensed practical nurses are represented by Council 89 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which has been in negotiations with Stone Barn Holdings, a privately held Connecticut investment company, one of whose principal owners is Charles Blalack. … The county Board of Commissioners sold the skilled-care facility because it was a drain on the general fund. Annual operating deficits totaled about $2 million at the time of the sale and were compounded by rising employee pension benefit costs. Under terms of the sale, all existing employees were entitled to keep their jobs and remain represented by AFSCME, although they were no longer county employees. Many, however, retired or found new jobs elsewhere. …

Pa. court hands union defeat in battle over privatization at Lebanon County’s nursing home
Source: Matt Miller, pennlive.com, September 23, 2014

Just days before the $25.5 million sale of Lebanon County’s Cedar Haven nursing home is to become final, county officials have won a state court battle with a union over the privatization of the facility’s food service. Commonwealth Court upheld that dietary department privatization in a decision issued Tuesday. The state court turned aside an appeal by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which claimed county officials breached AFSCME’s contract by unilaterally deciding to bring in an outside firm to run Cedar Haven’s food service in 2012. Numerous union members lost their jobs when Culinary Services Group took over Cedar Haven’s dietary department in February 2013. CSG hired about half of the nursing home’s county-employed dietary staff. County officials said the food service privatization would save about $500,000 a year, largely through wage and benefit reductions compared to what the county had paid its workers….The state judges took on the matter even though county officials argued that the pending sale of Cedar Haven – scheduled for completion on Sept. 30 – had rendered the dispute over the food service privatization moot. County commissioners voted in June to sell the 324-bed home to Complete HealthCare Resources of Montgomery County….

Cedar Haven employees ink contract with new owner
Source: John Latimer, Lebanon Daily News, August 21, 2014

The union representing employees of Cedar Haven has negotiated a contract with the incoming owners of the nursing home, but not everyone is thrilled with the results. After two days of negotiations on Aug. 5 and 6, representatives of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees came to terms with Complete HealthCare Resources on a two-year contract that will give employees annual 2 percent pay increases. The contract will automatically renew in subsequent years unless one side calls for renegotiating the deal….

Lebanon County union files grievance with Cedar Haven over outsourcing
Source: John Latimer, Lebanon Daily News, February 5, 2013

The union representing about 40 Cedar Haven kitchen workers has filed a labor grievance with the county for privatizing dietary services at the South Lebanon Township nursing home. Mike Fox, director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 89, said the county’s decision to hire Maryland-based Culinary Services Group to provide meals at Cedar Haven violated the employees’ contract….

…Fox questioned that amount because, he said, it referred to the base-contract figure of $2.26 million per year, which does not include additional charges for things like specialty meals provided to patients for medical reasons and meals for guests. When those expenses are added in, Fox said, the bottom line might be closer to the $3 million figure it cost the county to provide dietary services at the nursing home….Fox also took issue with the county for hiring CSG without a competitive bidding process and without informing the existing employees, who might have been willing to make concessions to save their jobs….