At first glance, Tuesday’s ruling by independent arbitrator Margaret Kern seemed to hit Yale-New Haven Hospital hard.
But beyond the unfriendly headlines, are hospital administrators really paying for their misconduct during last year’s union campaign?
The fact that they are spinning a demand for $4.5 million as a triumph of sorts should provide a clue: Not at all.
That hospital administrators have been aggressively opposing the attempted unionization by local SEIU 1199 for years is not the problem; that they would do so by misleading the public is.
Far too frequently since secret ballot elections became more than a hypothetical last fall, senior Yale-New Haven officials — under the leadership and oversight of CEO and President Marna Borgstrom EPH ’79 — have claimed that the hospital’s now-established violations of the Election Principles Agreement resulted from the actions of a few rogue managers.
That’s just not true.
As Kern’s and the National Labor Relations Board’s rulings demonstrate convincingly, the upper echelons of hospital leadership were directly involved in planning an anti-union campaign that would inevitably violate the agreement, and perhaps even the law. To be sure, the union-busting consultants hired by Yale-New Haven for $2.3 million handled the dirty details — but who paid the fees?
Even more, hospital leaders have not been straight with the public. Or while under oath.
Kern’s report suggests this much, noting that some of Borgstrom’s personal testimony does not match the documentary record.
We’ve heard that tune before.
Last May, the National Labor Relations Board found ample evidence that some senior hospital administrators, including Borgstrom, violated federal labor law. Other reports revealed that some managers held intimidating closed-door meetings and conveyed misinformation about the union, such as trying to link it to the Mafia.
If the buck does not stop with Borgstrom for these transgressions, we don’t know where it does. And if the numerous findings against the hospital are not cause enough for grave concern, we don’t know what is.
As the head of the second-largest employer in New Haven, Borgstrom has an obligation that extends beyond the medical complex — especially if Yale-New Haven is to be the community’s hospital and not only Yale’s. Tense relations between the hospital and surrounding community are nothing new, but intentionally misleading the public and the independent arbitrator while under oath goes too far.
We are therefore compelled to call for change: Either Borgstrom should resign or she should publicly, and unconditionally, take personal blame — not just for the mistakes that “were made,” but for overseeing a hospital that has betrayed a community’s trust.
It hasn’t always been like this. In Borgstrom’s first six months as CEO — which culminated in the March 2006 compromise that traded a secret ballot union election for a go-ahead on the Yale-New Haven Hospital Cancer Center — calling for her to step down would have been inconceivable: She participated directly in negotiations with the mayor and union and met personally with religious and community leaders, going so far as to join hands with some in prayer.
Where is that Marna Borgstrom now?