Oakland union members stage protest at corporate offices in Pleasanton

Claim 38 workers illegally fired

Health care workers who say they were illegally fired from their jobs in Oakland took their complaints to the company's Pleasanton headquarters Wednesday.

Members of United Healthcare Workers West picketed outside American Baptist Homes Of the West (ABHOW) corporate headquarters in the 6100 block of Stoneridge Mall Road. They say ABHOW, which operates retirement communities, fired 38 people after staging a 5-day strike. They claim they gave 20-day notice of the strike as required by law, and showed a leaflet put out by the company that stated no one would be fired over the protest.

Fired worker Gloria McNeal said when the workers tried to go back to work and were blocked by security guards.

"We were escorted to the back of the building, "McNeal said, and were told, "Your job has been replaced (by non-union workers). You can reapply on call for a position at a later date."

ABHOW company attorney David Durham said the workers haven't actually been fired.

"It's been the law since 1938," Durham said, "that employers can hire permanent or temporary replacements."

Durham said the workers are on a preferential list to be called back to work as openings occur.

Among the 38 fired workers are a couple, Johnny Lee, who's been with ABHOW for 30 years and his wife, Linda, who's been with the company 10 years.

McNeal said the strike was staged because a new contract hadn't been ratified since negotiations began in February. Those talks are in mediation now, she said, adding the company said it would not allow rehiring of the workers as part of the deal.

She said the workers have filed a suit with the federal government to get reinstated.

Durham said a meeting with the mediator is being set up for the near future.

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