In an unexpected move that comes less than two weeks after SEIU Local 1199 withdrew their petition for an NLRB election, Yale-New Haven Hospital CEO Marna Borgstrom released an apologetic letter Wednesday morning announcing that the hospital is petitioning the NLRB Board for an up-or-down secret ballot election and expressing regret for some of the hospital’s recent conduct.
Borgstrom said that several steps have been taken to address the hospital’s violation of the election agreement. An election had initially been scheduled for December, but an independent arbitrator postponed the election and ruled that the hospital had acted illegally in its campaigning against the SEIU, the union trying to organize the hospital’s 1,800 workers. Borgstrom, in her letter, said senior leadership responsibilities have been reassigned, a new General Counsel has been hired, managers have been reoriented coincide with federal regulations, and “for the remainder of the agreement” all optional meetings have been ceased.
“While it is an unusual move for an employer to call for an election, we think the opportunity to vote on this issue is critical to our employees,” Borgstrom wrote. “If the NLRB accepts the petition, it will assure that any election is held in an atmosphere free of improper conduct.”
But last week, union spokesman Bill Meyerson said that the union largely withdrew because it felt that Borgstrom’s management team had already ruined hopes of a fair election. He said that intimidation tactics created an environment in which a union could not possibly form. Instead, the union has been demanding a card-check election.
Last week, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said that he was extremely “disappointed” in Borgstrom’s leadership of the hospital.
In the letter, Borgstrom apologized for what she described as four missteps. She admitted that there were numerous voluntary meetings to discuss union matters that “should not have occurred,” but said that she immediately directed that they stop. She also acknowledged the dissemination of some improper training material, misleading information about union dues, and other misrepresentative communications about the union.
“We did not meet that standard of an [election] and I deeply regret it,” Borgstrom wrote,” adding later, “While we cannot turn back the clock and reverse these actions, we can look forward.”
The independent arbitrator Margaret Kern is currently evaluating 200 complaints lodged against the hospital by the union, and she has already ruled that the hospital did err several times. Hospital spokesman Vin Petrini originally said that there was no widespread violation of the hospital agreement with the union on the term of a fair election, but he has since admitted that there were more violations by the hospital than originally known.
Kern is expected to rule formally within the next several weeks. A rally for hospital workers is scheduled for this afternoon at 4 p.m. in Beinecke Plaza.