Hospital employees appeal to trustee

With chants and leaflets urging unionization, approximately 50 Yale-New Haven Hospital workers rallied outside the downtown office of a hospital Board of Trustees member Friday afternoon, union spokeswoman Deborah Chernoff said.

The workers attempted to visit hospital board member Nat Woodson, president and CEO of United Illuminating, at his office on Church Street. A few workers also tried to meet with Woodson in his 16th-floor office. His secretary told the workers that Woodson would not meet with them and never would, Chernoff said. Other workers formed a picket line outside the office to call for a fair unionization process for hospital workers. Workers passed the leaflets out to United Illuminating employees leaving work and to people passing by the building.

The demonstration comes amid a long organizing drive among nearly 1,800 hospital workers. The Service Employees International Union District 1199 already represents 150 dietary workers at the hospital, and is in the process of negotiating a new contract for those workers. District 1199 is closely aligned with the University’s largest unions, locals 34 and 35.

Yale’s relationship with the hospital has been a major source of contention as the University and its unions continue to negotiate contracts for nearly 4,000 workers.

Woodson declined to comment on the workers’ visit.

Chernoff said workers chose Woodson because he is a well-known member of the Board of Trustees. She said he spoke at the University of New Haven on Oct. 24 about corporate responsibility and how success demands the responsibility of helping to improve the community.

The demonstration’s purpose was to encourage a member of the hospital board to recognize a fair process of unionization for workers at Yale-New Haven Hospital, she said.

“Clearly, the hospital board can facilitate that process or they can impede it,” Chernoff said. “By refusing to meet with people concerned with the process, they are impeding it.”

In the past, union leaders have argued that Yale President Richard Levin controls the hospital, noting that he sits on the board and appoints eight of its 28 members. More recently, union leaders have asked Levin to urge hospital CEO Joseph Zaccagnino to recognize a union.

Levin declined to comment on the event.

In three separate incidents in early September, eight union supporters — six Yale employees and two graduate students — were arrested by hospital police while distributing information on unionization outside hospital buildings. On Oct. 28, union leaders filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board against the Yale-New Haven Hospital, alleging that these arrests violated federal labor laws.

The Board of Aldermen will vote tonight on a resolution urging New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and the Board of Police Commissioners to strip Yale-New Haven Hospital security officers of their power to make arrests.

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