An independent arbitrator hired to resolve disputes between Yale-New Haven Hospital and union organizers dismissed several of the accusations of foul play on Tuesday, but the ruling only intensified public acrimony between the two sides.
Margaret Kern dismissed four of the hospital’s complaints against SEIU District 1199 union organizers regarding a canceled December union election, describing the accusations as being “without merit.” She also dismissed one of the several dozen accusations of worker intimidation that the union filed against the hospital, and the union voluntarily withdrew another three. The rulings came hours after members of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee unsuccessfully attempted to meet with Yale-New Haven Hospital President and CEO Marna Borgstrom at her office.
Kern’s decision follows her Dec. 13 ruling that the hospital violated an agreement made with union organizers by holding mandatory meetings for hospital employees about the detriments of unionization during work time. The ruling prompted union officials to file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, which ultimately led to the cancellation of the election.
Despite Tuesday’s dismissals, there still remain nearly 250 additional complaints pending against the hospital. Kern has not yet released her decisions in those cases, but they are expected soon.
The union published the arbitrator’s ruling in a press release, saying that the hospital was systematically violating both the law and the mutual agreement signed in 2006. In response, hospital spokesman Vin Petrini said the union’s rhetoric was “discouraging” and “inappropriate.”
“We’ve not made a public issue of this, so it’s very disappointing that they would try to use this as leverage against us, especially on a day that the arbitrator ruled against them as well,” Petrini said.
Petrini said the reason that so many complaints remained against the hospital is because the union did not use discretion when filing them.
But union spokesman Bill Meyerson said organizers decided to publicize the rulings in order to keep the debate over the election out in the open.
“One of the big problems here is the hospital administration and the Board of Trustees’ refusal to be accountable for their conduct,” Meyerson said. “Despite the arbitrator’s ruling, despite all the evidence to the contrary, they continue to say [that the mandatory meetings were] one isolated incident and it was taken care of. [It’s] not true … and it’s important for the public to know that.”
Board of Aldermen President Carl Goldfield had invited Borgstrom to speak before the aldermen on Monday night, but she declined the invitation, choosing instead to speak privately with Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and Goldfield. All parties declined to comment on the meeting, saying they said had agreed that their discussion would remain private.
Several dozen Yalies were planning to attend the Monday Board of Alderman meeting if Borgstrom decided to appear, UOC member and Ward 1 co-chair Hugh Baran said. Since she did not, 12 members tried to meet with her Tuesday morning instead, though they were told by a receptionist that Borgstrom was out of the office.
Yonah Freemark ’08, a member of the UOC, said he went on the trip because he was “concerned that the hospital is not treating the employees well.” He and his fellow UOC members ultimately left Borgstrom a letter asking her to meet with them soon and declaring their support for a card check voting process, which DeStefano has also endorsed.
Unlike a regular secret ballot election, which would have occurred over a limited span of two days, the card-check system would allow for workers to make their decision as to whether or not to endorse a union whenever they are ready. If 50 percent of hospital workers were to sign their membership cards, then a union would be formed with power to negotiate on behalf of its employees.