Hospital agrees to settle NLRB labor charge

After months of meetings, negotiations and cancelled hearing dates, Yale-New Haven Hospital and the National Labor Relations Board agreed Wednesday night to settle a NLRB complaint that charged the hospital with illegally interfering with hospital workers’ attempt to form a union.

As a result of the out-of-court settlement, Yale-New Haven is required to post prominently a notice that outlines the labor rights of its employees. The notice will state that the hospital will not threaten employees with arrest, interrogate employees regarding union activities or discipline staff for involvement with labor organizations. The hospital has also been ordered to restore back pay to a pro-union employee suspended for union activities.

Marna Borgstrom, Yale-New Haven’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said management’s foremost priority is to maintain a positive working environment at Yale-New Haven.

“We will fully comply with all provisions of the National Labor Relations Act,” Borgstrom said in a written statement. “This includes ensuring that our employees are allowed to have choice in an environment protecting these freedoms.”

Deborah Chernoff, a spokeswoman for New England Health Care Employees Union District 1199, which filed the complaint, said she was pleased a settlement had been reached but was disappointed the negotiations were so drawn out.

“There is something odd about a process that requires a federal charge to get an institution such as Yale-New Haven to abide by the law,” Chernoff said. “Hospital management has demonstrated on numerous occasions that it doesn’t comply with the letter of the law without intervention.”

But hospital spokeswoman Jan Taylor said the agreement resolves the allegations against Yale-New Haven with no admission of guilt on the part of the hospital and eliminates the need for an extended debate over the merit of the charges.

The complaints were originally filed by District 1199 last summer after two incidents in which hospital workers distributing union pamphlets and pins were allegedly threatened with arrest by hospital police. District 1199 has been encouraging the 1,800 service and maintenance workers at the hospital to unionize since January 2000.

“I hope this is a starting place for a better relationship,” Chernoff said. “We’re hopeful the settlement will help employers and employees understand what the ground rules are.”

The NLRB recognized the validity of District 1199′s complaints in September and scheduled a hearing for Feb. 5. The hearing was postponed on three separate occasions after hospital attorneys indicated they would be interested in exploring a settlement.

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