SEIU protest provides minor sideshow at NIC conference

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While executives were hobnobbing at the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing and Care Industry conference Thursday, just across the street seven members of the Service Employees International Union held signs criticizing assisted living provider Atria Senior Living.

The union was protesting what it believes is poor resident care and working conditions at the chain, according to the SEIU. A former Atria worker also attempted to meet with Atria CEO John Moore, who was at the conference, the union said. The worker was targeted and fired after attempting to help workers form a union, the SEIU contends.

In a statement, Atria said the demonstration "undermines the union's credibility because our residents, staff, investors and the larger community recognize Atria as a leading provider of high quality senior living and a valued employer."

It added later, "the SEIU's ongoing public challenges of Atria are nothing more than publicity stunts aimed to tarnish our reputation in an effort to get more members and dues money."

The SEIU is 18 months into a long-term care organizing campaign, according to an SEIU spokesman. It spent the first six months trying unsuccessfully to hold discussions with Moore.

"We tried taking the high road and made the rounds, but we were rebuffed," said Deepak Pateriya. He cited Atria's alleged high employee turnover and employee complaints as causes for targeting Atria. He also said additional demonstrations against other assisted living companies are likely, including at future NIC conferences. The NIC conference concludes today.