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Veterans’ home workers conduct roadside demonstration

Protest in front of Charlotte Hall Veterans Home Nov. 10 2017
An inflatable rat served as the centerpiece for "informational picketing" that was done Friday, Nov. 10 in front of Charlotte Hall Veterans Home.

Charlotte Hall, MD - A group of employees at the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home bundled up on a chilly day before Veterans Day to let visitors and passing motorists know they are feeling unappreciated. The veterans home employees and members of the local lodge of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) conducted what one union official described as “information picketing” against the alleged refusal of the facility’s contracted management organization to give workers better wages and benefits.

Business Representative/Organizer Mark M. Duval of IAMAW told TheBayNet.com that the contract employees—nursing assistants, geriatric nurses, maintenance workers—recently joined the union in an effort to get a better contact from Health Management Resources (HMR) of Maryland LLC. That entity was awarded a multi-million dollar contract by the Maryland Board of Public Works (comprised of the governor, comptroller and state treasurer) to manage the veterans home.

According to Duval, recently HMR offered to the employees what they (HMR) called “the last, best and final offer.” Duval stated what was put on the table “was a substandard offer. The people who take care of our veterans aren’t being treated well. They are getting bad benefits and bad pay. Since we [IAMAW] came on board, we’ve been blowing the whistle on them [HMR].”

Duval stated that employees have complained about mold in the facility and HMR has done nothing about it. “They had legionella [a bacterium] testing,” said Duval, adding that the IAMAW workers at Charlotte Hall Veterans Home were not given respirators while the testing was being conducted. He added that “uncertified electricians” were contracted to do electrical work within the facility.

Duval opined that the paltry contract offer extended to the veterans home’s longtime workers appears to be strategy designed to get them to quit, but no one is leaving. “By giving employees a substandard contract, they [HMR] are asking employees to leave but the employees are standing fast,” said Duval.

Sheldon Barber, the IAMAW’s local lodge president, stated the veterans home workers were only offered raises of 35 cents an hour, are being required to pick up 25 percent of their healthcare plan and the company is refusing to negotiate a pension. “HMR knows how much the employees care about the veterans and they are using this against them,” said Barber.

“We’ve put up for years with these conditions,” said a female worker at the veterans home, declining to give her name for fear of retaliation. “Obviously, we’re not here for the money but we want to be treated fairly. We have to put a roof over our heads." The workers are also not getting all of the paid holidays they requested during negotiations, including one odd denial. "Next year they're taking Veterans Day away from us," the unidentified woman stated.

The base contract awarded to HMR of Maryland by the state Board of Public Works last December totals $170.8 million. The pact includes two two-year renewal options, both totaling $85.4 million. The South Carolina-based HMR of Maryland outbid Charlotte Hall Nursing LLC of Timonium and Maryland Health Innovations LLC of Ellicott City for the contract. According to data from the Maryland Department of Budget and Management, HMR was the highest ranked in the bidding process although its technical ranking was third. According to the Budget and Management document, HMR was recommended for the contract “as having the most advantageous offer for the state.”

It was also noted in the state documents that Charlotte Hall Nursing LLC filed four protests, two with the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs and two with the Maryland State Board of Contract Appeals, protesting the contract award to HMR. The two initial protests were denied by the Department of Veterans Affairs in October 2016.

TheBayNet.com attempted to contact HMR via the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home Marketing Office. A response had not been received as this story was being filed.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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