OAKLAND, California, March 10 /PRNewswire/ --
The nation's largest organization of registered nurses today denounced what it called undemocratic sham union elections scheduled this week at nine hospitals in Cincinnati, Springfield, and Lima.
The hospitals are part of the Catholic Healthcare Partners chain which petitioned for a federal labor board election following a secret deal with the Service Employees International Union that would impose SEIU as the company's hand-picked union for 8,000 RNs and other hospital employees.
In a statement today, the National Nurses Organizing Committee/California Nurses Association blasted the deal "for compromising the democratic rights of the nurses and other employees and even endangering public safety standards in the hospitals." NNOC/CNA has 80,000 members in all 50 states, including Ohio.
Other national nurses organizations are also criticizing the vote, said NNOC/CNA, including the New York State Nurses Association.
Stern's model -- a distortion of the democratic role of unionism
"The labor movement should unify in protecting the sanctity of democratic unionism and stop the top down deals that [SEIU President Andrew] Stern cuts across this country and around the world at the expense of workers," said NNOC/CNA Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro.
Ohio "is a microcosm of the direction SEIU has taken since Stern led his union out of the real labor movement, the AFL-CIO -- letting an employer force his union on RNs and other hospital employees without the involvement of a single worker," DeMoro said.
"Stern and the CEO of the Catholic system do not have the right to determine the fate of a profession that is primarily women. The arrogance of that stance is disgraceful." DeMoro called on the labor movement to "stop this distortion of everything the labor movement should stand for and represent."
'Disdain of the rights and interests of the RNs and other employees'
"The way this election was arranged and rushed through is a cynical manipulation of federal labor protections and a shocking, undemocratic disdain of the rights and interests of the employees," said Jill Furillo, RN, director of NNOC/CNA's Catholic hospital division.
By having the employer file for the election, CHP and SEIU were able to get around labor law requirements that require a union to show the support of at least 30 percent of the employees. CHP was able to convene an election without a single employee indicating support for SEIU.
Secondly, the labor board approved an immediate election, precluding the opportunity for any other union to talk to employees and petition to also appear on the ballot so that employees could have a choice on whom they wish to represent them.
"Registered nurses in Ohio deserve the choice to join a professional nurses union," said Patricia Eakin, RN, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals and an NNOC board member. "Having their hospital hand pick their union is undemocratic and contrary to the interests of nurses."
NNOC/CNA has sent nurses to talk to RNs at the nine hospitals to provide more information about the agreement and what rights and options they have.
Thousands of RNs send message to Conference of Catholic Bishops
Additionally, more than 4,000 RNs have sent protest e-mails to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops calling the deal "highly offensive. Not only does this decision deny registered nurses the right to determine which union represents us, it also is an affront to the largest female profession in healthcare."
"I demand an apology on behalf of the nursing profession and the patients we serve," the message said.
Turning American democracy on its head
"Everything about the way this shoddy process was done turns the notion of union and American democracy on its head. It's the kind of election you'd expect to see in a banana republic, not in America," said Furillo.
Finally, NNOC/CNA expressed concern for what patient care and other standards would be in place for employees and patients under a CHP-SEIU contract.
"SEIU International has a history of signing company union style deals with employers that erode public protections and employee standards, and abandon the ability of the employees to have a voice in deciding what those standards should be," Furillo said.
As an example, she pointed to a 2003 agreement between SEIU International and California nursing home chains. Among its terms, SEIU agreed to lobby on behalf of the nursing homes against legislative reforms to improve the quality of care in nursing homes.
The agreement also effectively permitted the nursing home owners to set pay rates, determine benefits and working conditions, and even outsource work done by union members without the input of employees.
"Unions need to be champions of public safety and the democratic rights of their members, not an adjunct of employers. When they abandon that role, there is no purpose for a union," Furillo said.
Jill Furillo, +1-916-417-6203, or Charles Idelson, +1-510-273-2246, +1-415-559-8991, both for National Nurses Organizing Committee