A group representing nearly 50 law students and professors said it plans to monitor labor practices at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Leaders from the Workers’ Rights Project said at a press conference Thursday they would form a committee to investigate complaints from hospital workers attempting to unionize that they have been intimidated by hospital officials.
“Since [workers] first tried to organize 40 years ago, the Yale administration has responded with threats, even force,” said Joshua Civin ’96 LAW ’03, the co-chairman of the project. “This time we hope will be different.”
The announcement came a week after representatives from Service Employees International Union District 1199, which is trying to unionize service and maintenance workers at the hospital, filed an unfair labor practices charge with the National Labor Relations Board.
The charge stems from three incidents in early October, when workers said they were threatened for wearing union stickers.
The charge said hospital officials had violated the terms of a settlement made last spring with the NLRB. The settlement followed unfair labor practice charges filed by District 1199, which said hospital security guards tried to stop workers from handing out materials on unionization.
Under the terms of the settlement, hospital officials posted a notice outlining employees’ labor rights. The notice included a statement that employees had a right to form, join or assist a union.
Hospital spokesman Mark D’Antonio said the new charge does not mean the hospital engaged in unfair labor practices.
“It is not difficult to file an unfair labor practice [charge], and doing so is commonplace in union organizing efforts,” D’Antonio said. “Most are not sustained by the Department of Labor.”
Deborah Chernoff, a spokeswoman for District 1199, said she hoped the charge would force hospital officials to follow the terms of the settlement.
“The issue is getting the hospital to respect workers’ rights to organize without, every single time someone says something or hands out a leaflet or wears a button, having to file more charges and issue more complaints,” Chernoff said.
Project members pointed to a memorandum hospital President Joseph Zaccagnino sent to department heads and managers following the April settlement.
In the memo, Zaccagnino wrote: “Do we believe these complaints are justified? In a word, no. But we have signed an agreement with the NLRB to ensure these charges do not become the basis for an extended and costly NLRB hearing which could be used by labor union supporters as a forum to build public support — The signing of this agreement in no way changes the hospital’s position regarding the current unionization effort. We oppose it and will continue to do so.”
But at another point in the memo, Zaccagnino said, “You should also continue to respect the right of any employee to join or support the union if he or she wishes.”
Zaccagnino was unavailable for comment Thursday.