Unionized Yale-New Haven Hospital workers have recently filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming that District 1199 failed to honor the union resignations of workers who reported to work during the three-week strike this fall. They also charged the union with illegal retaliation against workers who decided not to participate in the job action.
As of Nov. 10, 14 hospital workers are involved in the complaint against the Service Employees International Union District 1199, which represents about 150 workers at the hospital. Union members filed their charges with the assistance of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
The union has also announced that a new bargaining session is planned for Nov. 19. Hospital and union representatives have not bargained since the union rejected the hospital’s latest contract offer Sept. 19. Hospital workers returned to work without contracts on Oct. 23 after the strike.
Foundation spokesman Justin Hakes said workers have the right to resign at any time. But union spokesman Bill Meyerson said the union is democratic and that lack of member participation goes against the inherent goals of the union.
Hakes said workers are questioning union bylaws that demand a hearing upon member resignation.
“The union tried to enforce its internal rules requiring union members to strike, against members who had already resigned,” Hakes said. “They were essentially trying to force their rules on non-members.”
But Meyerson said the rule is a protective measure for union members.
“We want to make sure that in the purpose of the hearing — people feel comfortable that [workers] are not being pressured by their employers to withdraw,” Meyerson said.
Meyerson questioned the motives of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
“This is not surprising — this is what this foundation and employers do all the time,” Meyerson said. “[The Foundation] … trolls the Internet looking for stories that they can use to advance their agenda of eliminating effective unions in our country — I’ve seen this before.”
NLRB spokesman John Cotter said the union resignation policies can be complicated, and may be the root of the misunderstanding.
“If a [union member's] resignation is properly served upon the union, then they’re free from the requirements of membership and can cross the picket line and not be fined by the union,” Cotter said. “I say properly served, because the union may have regulations that the resignation must be turned in in writing at a certain time, you can’t just call up and say ‘I’m resigning’.”
There have also been questions about fines imposed on members who tried to resign. Cotter said non-members are still required to pay fees — lower than membership dues — to the union for bargaining on their behalf. In the event that fines imposed on these workers are determined to be illegal, they will be reimbursed.
The hospital filed complaints against District 1199 on Oct. 10. These complaints, which are still pending, alleged District 1199 paid members to vote against proposed contracts, unfairly distributed funds during the strike and permitted harassment of members who did not strike.
Hospital spokeswoman Katie Krauss said it is obvious that the workers who filed charges are upset with the unions’ actions.
“It is these 14 employees who have filed these charges that have experienced the threats, intimidation and harassment, and discriminatory payments made to the union’s membership,” hospital spokeswoman Katie Krauss said.
Meyerson said it is still unclear whether the complainants are currently union members and that the issue may come up in subsequent legal proceedings.