Hospital should recognize workers’ union

Fifteen months ago, 1,100 physician’s assistants, patient care associates, clerical workers and housekeepers at Yale-New Haven Hospital signed a petition affirming that they would like to bargain collectively under the auspices of the New England Health Care Employees Union.

At a massive rally on the New Haven Green today, some of those workers will call on Yale-New Haven Hospital to enter into a card-check neutrality agreement with the union’s local, District 1199. Their call has been joined by a resolution of the Yale College Council. The hospital, although it maintains an operating agreement with Yale University and has Yale officers on its board, is independent of the University.

The unionization effort at the hospital is one we strongly support.

Hospital unions across the country have proved to be effective means of reducing staffing problems on floors and within units that can lead to serious degradation of patient care. They have provided hospital employees, who work long and strange shifts in a sensitive and taxing environment, with an ability to negotiate the terms of their employment.

We have said before in this space that questions linger over whether the union model is an appropriate one for the relationship between faculty members and their graduate student teaching assistants. On Monday, we disagreed with the Yale College Council’s resolution to support card-check neutrality in the Graduate Students and Employees Organization’s attempt to unionize graduate students, since we believe that the forthright debate engendered by a secret-ballot election outweighs in that situation the sometime combative tone that results.

Anecdotal evidence also indicates that graduate students are divided on the issue; the secret-ballot election would allow students to vote their minds privately without pressure or fear of retribution.

In the case of the relationship between hospital management and hospital workers, there is almost no debating the appropriateness of a union, and there appears to overwhelming demand for it among the rank-and-file workers.

We encourage hospital chief executive Joseph Zaccagnino and his staff to work with the union to develop a card-check neutrality agreement that would allow District 1199 to become a union with rights of representation and collective bargaining upon presentation of union cards by more than half of the eligible workers at the hospital.

Such an agreement would be an important first step in good relations between the hospital and District 1199. Unionization in this case is the right path for employees, patients and the hospital. And it will happen. The hospital would do well to ensure that it does in an orderly and efficient manner.

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