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Nursing home operator Gerry Homes Corp. must recognize the Teamsters Union at its Heritage Park Health Care Center in Jamestown, according to a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C.

The ruling upheld an earlier finding by an administrative law judge that the company wrongly ousted the Teamsters when it bought the facility, formerly called Fenton Homes, in 1995. At the time of the sale, the Teamsters represented about 140 nurses aides and other service workers.

But the company said it anticipated the board's ruling and plans to appeal in U.S. District Court.

"Our contention is Fenton Park was merged into a much larger group," Heritage President Donald Cutler said. "It's inappropriate to have a union at just one facility."

Gerry Homes renamed Fenton Park as Heritage Park and combined its operations with two other non-union homes, Heritage Village and Heritage Green. The three facilities operate within six miles of each other and employ 600 people.

But the NLRB rejected the company's argument in its Sept. 26 ruling. The new owners of the nursing home rehired most of the former Fenton Park workers and allowed the site to operate substantially independently from the other homes, the labor board said. Transfers from Heritage Park to other facilities were mainly for training purposes, the board said.

Cutler said that workers are better off since the sale, with higher pay and pension benefits than they had under Teamster representation.

Laundry, cafeteria and cleaning workers rejected Teamster representation after a contractor came in at Heritage Park and agreed to recognize the union, Cutler said. Teamsters representatives couldn't be reached for comment.

"Our employees are better off than they were under the union," Cutler said. "That's why you're not seeing any (organizing) activity."

According to the NLRB's order, the nursing home company must recognize the Teamsters as the workers' representative and bargain with the union. Since the sale, the Teamsters local that represented workers has merged with Local 264 in Buffalo. The employer also must post a notice at Heritage Park saying that it violated the National Labor Relations Act.

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