A document leaked anonymously to New Haven’s City Hall two weeks ago has shed light on the possible extent to which Yale-New Haven Hospital management violated an Election Principles Agreement set a year ago to govern the conduct of the hospital and the union trying to organize there.
The 35-page document was provided to the News by an official at City Hall, and its authenticity was confirmed by a hospital spokesman. The document was issued to mid-level hospital managers in the months leading up to a union election scheduled for last December and appears to have played a part in an anti-union campaign in which managers were expected to instruct their employees as to why unions are unnecessary, corrupt and harmful to workers. A union spokesman said the document does not describe the full extent of the hospital’s violations of the election agreement.
[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”14120″ ]
The manual lists 27 talking points against unions that managers can use in conversation with employees.
“Talk about any bad experience you or others you know may have had with unions,” the document instructs managers. “Also talk about the union’s past. Tell employees about documented history of Mafia influence and corruption of unions. Tell employees examples where union leaders have embezzled money from their members’ pension and health insurance funds. Tell them about situations where unions have made promises and have not delivered.”
The Election Principles Agreement signed last March states that the hospital could only make factual communications to employees and could not disparage the union — a point listed in the manual itself, which reprints part of that agreement.
When compared to an independent arbitrator’s ruling last December regarding one manager who held mandatory meetings for employees, it is apparent that at least some of the training document’s recommendations were followed. But hospital spokesman Vin Petrini said the manual was provided as background material in binders issued to managers and was not discussed during training sessions. But he said the managers were trained on the National Labor Relations Act and the Election Principles Agreement, and multiple pages of the document have blank lines marked “Notes:” next to headings describing various aspects of the Act.
The document was prepared and issued by IRI Consultants to Management, a consulting firm hired by the hospital to advise administrators on how to conduct their anti-union campaign within the election agreement, Petrini said.
But union spokesman Bill Meyerson said the distinction between the hospital and the firm it hired was meaningless. Labor law experts said IRI is not among the most aggressive union-busting firms, but it is hired by companies seeking to avoid unionization of their employees. It is unclear how much of IRI’s advice was specific to Yale-New Haven because consulting firms often have boilerplate materials they reuse for multiple clients.
Petrini said that, in retrospect, parts of the document are “inconsistent” with the hospital’s values as an organization and managers have since been retrained. He said the hospital is not trying to minimize the fact that it led an anti-union campaign and hopes to move forward with a new secret ballot election.
But that future is increasingly unclear, as became apparent less than a week before the training manual was leaked. The hospital filed its own petition for a union election at Yale-New Haven in an unusual and surprising move. The union had previously withdrawn its own petition to the National Labor Relations Board, citing a poisoned environment in which a fair election would not be possible.
The union, which had withdrawn more than 200 charges of unfair labor practices, refiled the charges after the hospital launched its own election petition. The NLRB subsequently delayed the hospital’s petition as it resumes reviewing the union’s complaints.
Margaret Kern, an independent arbitrator hired under the election agreement, is expected to rule soon on the more than 200 complaints the union filed against the hospital. But Petrini previously refused to rule out a legal response from the hospital if the ruling orders something other than an election, such as a card check procedure. The hospital has already challenged Kern’s jurisdiction now that the original election was withdrawn, he said.