Unions battle in Ohio over hospital workers

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Service Employees International Union, a trade union in the United States and Canada, was trying to unionize 8,300 workers in nine different Ohio hospitals through elections that were scheduled for this Wednesday and Friday. But then organizers from a second union, the California Nurses Association, visited the hospitals to encourage the workers to vote not to join the S.E.I.U. These actions led to the service employees union on Tuesday asking to postpone the vote by workers at the nine hospitals, all which are a part of the Catholic Healthcare Partners system.

Andy Stern, the service president is quoted as saying, "nothing more than a flimsy cover for out-and-out union busting that we normally see from employers, not organizations that claim to care about workers."

The California Nurses Association, said it dispatched organizers to Ohio because in its view the unionization efforts were part of a "sweetheart deal".

Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the nurses association, condemned this agreement. She called it "a rigged scam" in which the service union would bargain without care if they won the vote.

"This was a top-down deal between an employer and a hand-picked union," Ms. DeMoro said. "There was a gag order on everyone, and as a result this was a banana republic election."

"As for the future," DeMoro said, "no election is planned." She said that delaying the election was "a significant victory for employee rights."

Dave Regan, president of a service employees’ local representing 35,000 health care workers in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky, called the nurses union’s conduct as, "Their conduct is indistinguishable from that of the most vicious anti-union employers," Mr. Regan said. "It violates every principle of unionism. Real people are worse off today as a result of their behavior."

Orest Holubec, spokesman for Catholic Healthcare, said the system’s hospital in Lima had obtained a restraining order to bar the California nurses from entering restricted patient-care areas and aggressive leafletting outside hospitals. "They were doing exactly the kind of things we were trying to avoid," Mr. Holubec said. "They poisoned the well to the degree that we didn’t have the conditions that we tried to establish for a pressure-free environment."


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