Yale-New Haven Hospital officials filed a series of formal complaints with the National Labor Relations Board Oct. 10.
The complaints alleged that the union representing dietary workers paid members to vote down proposed contracts, distributed funds unfairly during last month’s strike and permitted harassment of members who worked during the walkout.
Since union members returned to work without contracts Sept. 23, contract negotiations between the hospital and the 140 members of Service Employees International Union District 1199 have stalled. The workers participated in a three-week strike with Yale’s two largest unions, locals 34 and 35, that ended Sept. 18.
Hospital representatives said the union is avoiding a contract settlement while trying to organize 1,800 other service workers at the hospital. Union representatives said District 1199 have not accepted the hospital’s offer because it is inadequate.
“We have been available to have a negotiation session, but the union has not indicated any interest or set up a time with us,” hospital spokeswoman Katie Krauss said. “It’s our sense frankly that the union is more or less holding these 140 employees hostage while working to expand union membership at the hospital.”
But union spokesman Bill Meyerson said the contract is unrelated to efforts to increase union numbers. He said he is still hopeful for better labor relations with the hospital.
“If there had been an acceptable offer on the table, then the workers would have accepted it,” Meyerson said. “The ball is in [the hospital’s] court. They made what they described as a final offer, so if they’ve got something else, we would be more than happy to hear what they have to say.”
The hospital’s first complaint stated that some union members were paid to reject the hospital’s latest contract proposal.
“Offering cash payments in return for actions and votes clearly represents a failure on the part of the union for to bargain in good faith with the hospital,” Krauss said.
But District 1199 member Ray Milici said any payments were legal strike benefits and said the charge is “totally ridiculous.”
“They were strike benefits,” Milici said. “Whether we voted ‘yes’ for the contract or ‘no’ for the contract, we would still have gotten strike benefits — Members could have voted either way.”
Hospital officials also filed a formal complaint with the NLRB concerning the distribution of funds during the strike. Strikers received $250 a week, with varying additional funds distributed to picketers and strikers. Picketers received $1000, and strikers who did not picket were given $500. Those who continued to work received nothing.
Krauss called the practice “discriminatory” and “punitive” against workers who did not participate in the strike.
Meyerson maintained that the payments were legal and appropriately distributed.
“As the representative of the NLRB had told the [New Haven] Register — it’s not a violation of the law to provide strike benefits for members who are on strike,” Meyerson said.
The hospital filed a third complaint with the NLRB stating that the non-striking members of the union have been subjected to harassment. Copies of Jack London’s “Ode to a Scab” were circulated, along with the names of 17 workers who had continued to work during the walkout.
In addition, Krauss said strikebreakers received notice that they would be subjected to a disciplinary hearing by the union.
Meyerson said that while an official union hearing was held last week to determine an appropriate solution, no decisions have been made.
“There was a number of requests by members of the Yale-New Haven Hospital chapter to the executive board of the union — to the executive board of the entire district — to bring the people who crossed the picket line up on charges,” Meyerson said. “There was a hearing held last week, and there was some discussion about what to do, but there hasn’t been any decision made.”
Possible punishment might include sanctions and potential expulsion from the union according to union bylaws, he said.
Hospital and District 1199 members have not bargained since the union rejected the hospital’s latest contract offer. No negotiations are currently scheduled.
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