Arbitrator rules against hospital

Marking a watershed moment in an ongoing unionization dispute between Yale-New Haven Hospital and the SEIU District 1199 union, an independent arbitrator on Tuesday afternoon ordered the hospital to reimburse the union for its organizing expenses during an ongoing unionization campaign and to pay its employees over $2 million in compensation for having been “victimized” and “threatened” last year.

In a 47-page final report, independent arbitrator Margaret Kern cited a National Labor Relations Board precedent to reject the union’s request for a bargaining order, but she found that a majority of eligible workers had signed authorization cards in support of a union last fall.

Both hospital officials and union leaders said they plan to comply with the decision, although Yale-New Haven Hospital may challenge the amount of monetary damages.

A number of senior hospital officials, including Executive Vice President Richard D’Aquila and Senior Vice President of Human Resources Edward Dowling, are described in the report as having either directly or indirectly furthered an anti-union campaign executed by an outside consulting firm — which the hospital was not supposed to hire in the first place, according to a March 2006 agreement.

Others, such as hospital President and CEO Marna Borgstrom EPH ’79, failed to provide truthful evidence while testifying under oath, according to Tuesday’s opinion.

After reviewing over 200 complaints from workers and holding a series of hearings, Kern concluded that the hospital’s efforts to intimidate employees and derail the unionization campaign were systematic.

“This was not a situation, so familiar in heated union campaigns, where a few rogue managers lose their composure and say things they later regret,” Kern wrote. “The employer’s conduct there was a methodical dismantling of the terms and commitments of the election principles agreement.”

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