Getting beneath the surface: Who Daniel Straus says he is, and who he really is.
-In an interview with NYU Professor Joseph Weiler, now available on the Straus Institute website:
PROFESSOR JOSEPH WEILER: So, I want to talk a little bit about when you first started thinking about philanthropy. I’m really interested in that first moment. You are a generous, magnificent philanthropist – how does it come the point that you say to yourself, “I’m going to share my wealth. I’m not just going to sit on it. It’s not only about my children and my family.”
DANIEL STRAUS: There were really two impulses. It was early, but one was the impulse of gratitude – to recognize where I came from, how I got what I got, and to appreciate it. I think, in order to be able to give, you have to be able to step outside and have perspective.”
The second impulse, once you have financial wealth and one’s needs met, is to have an ability to make choices in life about things that are important. I think that we all believe that the things we do are seen by our children and hopefully we create the right example. And so, those were really my two impulses: gratitude for what I had, and a desire to demonstrate to the next generation something I believed in and thought was important.
DANIEL STRAUS: One of the handicaps of being so involved in day-to-day in business is the inability to really personally give hours in community service. I would love to do that.
His center for the “Advanced Study of Law and Justice” was bankrolled with yearly gifts of $1.25 million.
The Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law and Justice, which operates semi-autonomously from NYU, opened in the 2009-10 academic year. Fellows are chosen on an annual basis and depending on the chosen annual theme that the institute has decided to center research around for that year (the theme for the upcoming year is “The Burden of Democracy”). Each fellow receives $100,000 for the year, subsidized housing and an office.
Where Straus is getting this money, and what he’s doing with the rest of it:
Straus and the healthcare industry:
Straus and CareOne: “Our Mission is to define excellence within the health care community. We treat residents, their families and each other with respect, dignity and compassion. We strive to lead the industry by delivering superior clinical outcomes and exceptional care in exceptional settings.
CareOne accomplishes its Mission through ethically responsible practices that support the delivery of superior clinical care and service to our customers.”
CareOne’s “shared values” as a business: “Challenges are opportunities, Attitudes are always positive, Respect and dignity for everyone, Excellence in care and in everything we do, Our hearts and hands are always open to help, Nurturing our residents and each other is essential, Everyone works together as a team.”
Straus and HealthBridge Management (the company managing the nursing homes in Connecticut, which is also owned by Straus’s CareOne): “Our Mission: Through a collaborative and consultative approach, we strive to provide a framework of strength and stability for the Centers we serve. We work to maintain the highest standards of care and service for Residents, families and our valued employees. Backed by our collective decades of experience in health care services, our Mission is to continue to define excellence in the nursing and rehabilitation industry.”
Straus serves on the Board of Directors of Aveta, Inc. and was previously the CEO and co-founder of the company. The company is one of the largest providers of managed healthcare in the United States, and takes pride in achieving its vision of being “focused on strong patient-provider relationships[.] Aveta and its family of companies builds sustainable models of managed care that are coordinated, cost-effective, innovative and driven by quality.”
Care One locked out the employees at the West River, Connecticut facility in the middle of December of this past year, and refused to allow their representatives (SEIU 1199) back to the negotiating table until they agreed to an automatic pension freeze. From there, Care One is intent on instituting a series of cuts to health coverage, sick days, overtime pay, holidays, and an end to their paid lunch breaks. In exchange, CareOne is offering a twelve percent pay increase over six years, which does not come close to covering the losses that would result (amounting to over $70,000).
To add to the irony of Straus and his connection to an institute that concerns itself with the study of “law and justice,” while CareOne employees have had their lunches taken from them as part of Straus’s efforts to cut costs, the fellows at the Institute at NYU are provided- among other perks- a weekly lunch. Annual salary for nurses at the Milford, CT facility= $32,000….Annual salary for Straus Institute fellows: $100,000.
In February 2012, the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against HealthBridge/CareOne stating the company, “failed and refused to bargain in good faith with the Union,” in negotiations over the renewal of employee contracts at the Connecticut facilities, affecting 800 nursing home workers. This is the fourth complaint issued by the NLRB against companies owned by Straus. A trial date of May 21, 2012 has been set for the prosecution of the company.
HealthBridge Management, the company that has locked out 100 workers in Milford, is threatening to lock out 700 more workers at five other nursing homes throughout Conn. in an effort to extract more of the earnings workers deserve.
On Nov. 21, 2011 an administrative law judge at the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the company illegally fired four workers and reduced the hours of five others at one of their nursing homes in Somerset County, N.J. Workers were fired for voting to unionize alongside 1199 in Sept. of 2010. The National Labor Relations Board ruled in Nov., however, that they had been unlawfully terminated, and ordered that Care One allow them to have their jobs back.
Like most nursing home chains, CareOne and HealthBridge rely on state and federal reimbursements. But they boost profits by running their own pharmaceutical supplier and management services company, allowing them to run up costs on “contractors” that are in fact the same management in disguise.
In the latest attempt to end the struggle between Straus and the employees, CareOne has threatened to close down the Milford facility altogether, which would alienate over 1,200 patients from CareOne’s obligations to both the employees and the people seeking care.
Straus and Real Estate in NYC:
Straus purchased eight buildings from the Whitney Museum of American Art on the Upper East Side in 2010 for $95 million, with no clear plan for what he would do with the new purchases. Most likely it was planned to be rehabilitated and resold as luxury condos and offices.
Less than a year later, Straus put one of the buildings on the market for $38 million, which was still being used by the Whitney, but was intended to be sold as a future private residence.
Straus has made no new friends in the neighborhood, coming into conflict with the local community development board, who rejected his plans for the transformation of the real estate purchased from the Whitney because it shows no awareness or respect for the neighborhood’s history and architecture. Straus has shown no sign of heeding the community’s wishes.