Hospital-union grievances still unresolved

As Yale-New Haven Hospital’s long-postponed hearing before the National Labor Relations Board draws nearer, the ongoing meetings to resolve accusations brought against the hospital by New England Health Care Employees Union District 1199 seem no closer to resolution.

During the last three weeks, officials from all three parties have met in an attempt to avoid a hearing before an NLRB administrative law judge to determine whether Yale-New Haven administrators were responsible for obstructing union activities at the hospital. Two prior hearing dates were postponed, but the current date of March 19 is unlikely to change.

“We’ve been trying to pursue a settlement through these discussions, but the hearing date still stands,” said NLRB regional attorney Jonathan Kreisberg. “If a settlement isn’t reached, the hearing will proceed.”

Kreisberg added that the two sides have made some progress in their meetings, but that not every issue has been agreed upon by both sides.

District 1199 spokeswoman Deborah Chernoff was less optimistic in her appraisal.

“There’s been no progress recently,” Chernoff said. “It hasn’t been going very well.”

District 1199, which is attempting to unionize the 1,800 service and maintenance workers at the hospital, originally filed the complaint with the NLRB last summer after two incidents in which hospital workers distributing union pamphlets and pins were allegedly threatened with arrest by hospital police.

Chernoff reiterated 1199’s willingness to settle with Yale-New Haven as soon as the hospital accepts responsibility for the alleged obstruction of union activity.

“Our position is that the hospital should obey the law,” she said. “They may feel they have a different interpretation of the law, but we think it’s pretty clear.”

Hospital officials could not be reached for comment.

District 1199 is hoping to provide hospital workers with better wages and health care benefits through a recognized union. The union is also attempting to alleviate staffing deficiencies at the hospital by establishing a joint labor management committee.

Kent Hilton, a worker for building services at Yale-New Haven, is eagerly awaiting unionization at the hospital.

“The benefits of having a union are tremendous,” Hilton said. “I hope [1199] is able to step in and be able to do their thing.”

The NLRB officially recognized the merit of 1199’s complaints Sept. 28 and scheduled a hearing for Feb. 5. Only days before that hearing date, Yale-New Haven requested the hearing be postponed so the two sides could attempt to resolve the issues without federal intervention. After being moved to Feb. 12, the hearing was again delayed so meetings could continue and was rescheduled to the current date of March 19.

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