This week marks a milestone for Local 400 members working at Ashland Nursing Home in Richmond, Va. After a two-and-a-half year struggle marked by management union-busting tactics and extensive litigation, they are finally sitting down at the bargaining table to negotiate their first contract.

Back in November 2010, Ashland workers voted to empower themselves by choosing Local 400 representation, after enduring gross mistreatment by management. Abuses included being forced to stay at the nursing home and sleep on the floor after their shifts ended during a snowstorm, and the strip-searching and harassment of six health professionals.

Rather than accept the outcome of the election and bargain with the workers, Ashland management filed objections and followed through with litigation that created what felt like endless delays to the workers who voted “Union Yes!”  When the National Labor Relations Board ordered management to bargain with the workers, Ashland appealed the ruling in court. Last December, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals rejected Ashland’s motion; at long last, this brought the company to the bargaining table.

“In the past view days the mood here at Ashland has really brightened,” said Cora Johnson, 15-year CNA and member of the bargaining committee. “The way we have been mistreated and disrespected, it brings a lot of hope and happiness to us as we move forward.”