Atria Lazard Wasserstein Friday Recap

So far this week, in the unfolding story of Atria Senior Living, Bermuda-based (HA!) buyout firm Lazard and the really, really rich guy at the top of the food chain Bruce Wasserstein:

Part four: Gouging Vulnerable Seniors -- What Can Be Done?:

The world recognizes that there is a problem with this kind of uninhibited greed. Many people and organizations recognize that such a system is not sustainable, harms the people who work for the companies, the communities around them, the customers and the economies in which they operate. Sure, a few executives make out like bandits for a while, but over time it doesn't do the rest of us any good, not even their companies.

[. . .] I am writing here to encourage PGGM and CDP (La Caisse de Depot et Placements du Quebec) to ask Lazard to clean up their act, and have Atria treat their elderly residents and their workers better. Ask them to support the International Labor Organization's core conventions, especially Freedom of Association: "The right of workers and employers to form and join organizations of their choice is an integral part of a free and open society. It is a basic civil liberty that serves as a building block for social and economic progress. Linked to this is the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining. Voice and representation are an important part of decent work." They work for YOU, you have responsible investment policies, and what Lazard is doing goes against these policies.

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Gouging Vulnerable Seniors -- What Can Be done?

This is part four of an unfolding series on the Atria Senior Living chain of senior living facilities, and how they treat their residents and workers. So far:
Part three: Living and Working at Atria
Part two: Extreme Wealth Just Isn't Enough
Part one: When Seniors Are the Product

I have been writing this week about the Atria Senior Living facilities, which are owned by a Lazard-"affiliated" fund.  The elderly people who live in these corporate-owned and managed facilities are treated as a product, neatly packaged up and flowing to the investors.  Services for them are costs that must be reduced and reduced, while the rates increase and increase.  Employees are an irritating necessity, not human beings to be fairly compensated and treated with respect.

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Living and Working at Atria

Part three of our unfoldingstory is about living and working at Atria Senior Living.

Go read Unassisted Living: Atria Residents, Families, and Workers Tell Their Stories --,

"Not long after she became a resident, mom and I began to notice many problems with her level of care. They didn't have enough staff to do even the one check that was part of her care plan. The short staffing was apparent in other areas. Crucial doctor's appointments were cancelled without notice because there wasn't a driver. Showers were not routine. Even after constant requests, too few staff were available to keep up with the requests."
We are people, not economic units, and there is a difference.  This may be a difficult concept to grasp after three or four decades of constant corporate-funded "free market" propaganda.  But people make decisions for higher reasons than just making or saving a buck or two.  Most people, anyway.

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Extreme Wealth Just Isn't Enough

Part One of the unfolding story was about the vulnerability of the elderly -- perfect targets for exploitation.  

In Part One the Bermuda-based (HA!) "buyout" firm Lazard, LLC. set up Atria Senior Living which an "affiliated entity" owns.

Atria houses seniors, and collects a monthly fee, which ends up in Lazard's (affiliated) bottom line. ... Atria has been reducing services, raising rates, cutting wages, and generally treating the residents and employees like money trees that exist to be squeezed.
Part Two is about extreme wealth.

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When Seniors Are the Product

The unfolding story of how a wealthy buyout firm takes advantage of vulnerable old people and low-wage employees to make money and enrich its top executives.

To set the stage, think about yourself getting old, or about your parents or grandparents.  Think about reaching a point where you just can't quite get by living on your own at home anymore.  So at some point you decide you have to move into a senior facility.  What about if you need assisted-living facilities -- a place with people to help you take a shower and things like that.  And finally, think about when you might need "memory care." (This is a the name for a special facility for people with Alzheimer's disease.)

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Obama Addressing SEIU Convention

Barack Obama will be speaking via video to the SEIU convention today at 10:50am Eastern -- 7:50am Pacific -- or shortly after that.  You can watch it by clicking here or watching below:

Webcast powered by Ustream.TV

Update [2008-6-4 11:17:46 by Todd Beeton]:"Our partner, our brother, the Democratic nominee and the next president of the United States, Barack Obama." The place is going absolutely nuts.

Barack: "We won because we followed what I call Stern's first principle: organize, organize and organize some more."

"What holds us together is this fundamental belief that we are all in this together. That we are our brother's keeper, we are our sister's keeper...It's the idea that's at the heart of this campaign...They call it the ownership society but what it means is 'you're on your own.'"

shorter Barack: conservatism = "tough luck, you're on your own."

Update [2008-6-4 11:21:25 by Todd Beeton]:Barack: "We can not let John McCain serve out George Bush's third term...It's not change when John McCain chose to side with George Bush 95% of the time as he did last year."

"Change is rewarding not just wealth but work and the workers who work hard every day."

Change is having a president who's worked with you on that picket line, who doesn't choke on the word 'union.'...We will finally make the Employee Free Choice Act the law of the land." The members in the hall stood up for that one.

Update [2008-6-4 11:24:28 by Todd Beeton]:The members are chanting "Si se puede!"

Update [2008-6-4 11:28:20 by davej]:"Politics didn't lead me to working folks - working folks led me to politics"

Update [2008-6-4 11:30:49 by Todd Beeton]:Wow, confetti is everywhere and U2's "Beautiful Day" is playing. Definitely a festive atmosphere in here, everyone wearing purple SEIU Obama t-shirts.

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Andy Stern SEIU Convention Speech Speech Live Webcast

You can see SEIU President Andy Stern addressing the 2008 SEIU convention by going to this website:  SEIU 2008 Convention, Ustream.TV: Streaming live from SEIU's 2008 Convention in Puerto Rico.

[Update] Here is an embed that will also stream ongoing convention activities after Stern's talk: Online Video provided by Ustream

Update [2008-6-2 14:37:49 by Todd Beeton]:This was an absolute barn-burner of a speech. The membership in this hall was absolutely rapt by Andy's message of "justice for all, not just us" and "we are our brother's and sister's keeper." Up on the jumbotron, you could see the tears welling in the eyes of people who stood up and cheered Andy, the people in this hall were clearly moved by the speech. There's been more than a little political theatre at play here, especially the "Deal of the Century"-like graphics announcing the landmark of crossing 2,000,000 members, but no matter how theatrical the speech and the presentation were, the reaction by the membership was clearly genuine.

Update [2008-6-2 14:44:30 by Todd Beeton]:Two women, non-union workers, just left the stage after telling their stories, again, a genuinely moving moment in what is generally a fairly scripted theatrical affair. They spoke of making in the area of $7 an hour, having to work several jobs and still living paycheck to paycheck. They have no healthcare insurance, one woman spoke of being one paycheck away from being homeless, unable to save for retirement and unable to visit her grandchild in NY. That's when she broke down and I heard to my right in the back of the room: "That's OK, take your time, darlin." She stopped speaking to collect herself and the place rose to their feet in solidarity with their sisters, many wiping away tears. It was a reminder to me of why we're fighting for what we're fighting for.

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Blogs Brought Attention To The Security Guard Strike

Over the last few weeks I have been writing about the plight of security guards working for a company called Inter-Con, a contractor at Kaiser Permanente Hospitals in California.  One post I wrote on this was titled, Why Don't We Hear About Labor Issues Anymore? and I want to get to that subject some more here.  But first, I want to go over what was covered.


I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike.  sfs-234x60-animated-v2

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Why Don't We Hear About Labor Issues Anymore?

Last week security guards working at Kaiser Permanente facilities in California went on strike to protest illegal anti-union activities on the part of their employer, Inter-Con Security.  Instead of hiring security guards directly in California, or using a union-friendly security contractor, Kaiser contracts with Inter-Con.  The strike lasted three days.

A few local TV news broadcasts covered the story, and there were a few newspaper articles announcing that there was going to be a strike.  But there was almost no actual coverage of the strike except on progressive sites and labor outlets.  What's up with that?  

Why does the media barely cover labor issues?  


I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike.  sfs-234x60-animated-v2

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Kaiser Security Guard Strike

This week I wrote about the Kaiser Permanente / Inter-Con Security Security Guard strike.

The post Security Guards Striking for the Right to Have Our Laws Enforced discussed why the guards are striking.  They are employees of Inter-Con Security, Inc., which contracts services to Kaiser Permanente facilities in California.  This company (not Kaiser) is trying to stop the guards from forming a union and the guards are striking to ask that laws allowing union organizing be enforced.


I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike.  sfs-234x60-animated-v2

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