Clergy and political leaders to monitor union election campaign at Memorial Hospital

NewsDecember 10, 2009

Councilmember Jacobi and others will investigate workers’ reports of intimidation and deceptive campaigning

Santa Rosa, Calif.—A group of prominent political leaders, scholars, and religious leaders have formed a commission to protect workers’ rights in the hotly contested Dec. 17 union vote at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

“The reports we’ve been hearing from workers at the hospital are truly disturbing,” said Monsignor John Brenkle, pastor of St. Helena Catholic Church and a co-chair of the new Fair Election Oversight Commission.

“SEIU has prevented any ground rules from being set, and workers are facing a hostile atmosphere in what should be a place of healing and caring,” he said. “When there is behavior by the hospital or by a union that interferes with their right to choose freely, we want workers to be able to report that to an independent body.”

The 17-member commission includes Santa Rosa City Councilmember Veronica Jacobi and will be chaired by Msgr. Brenkle and JoAnn Consiglieri. Consiglieri is a former member of Memorial Hospital’s founding order, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange.

In April, a majority of Memorial Hospital workers signed a petition to join the National Union of Healthcare Workers, and hospital management had promised to negotiate with workers’ representatives to establish fair ground rules for a union election. But the rival organization SEIU intervened to block negotiation on ground rules, and has ignored calls to step aside from the North Bay Labor Council1 and religious leaders from across the country2. Even former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has asked SEIU to come to the table and allow the hospital and the union to set ground rules.3

The lack of fair ground rules has allowed hospital management to launch an anti-union campaign that Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice has called “a violation of Catholic Social Teaching on workers’ rights.”4

Fair Election Oversight Commission members:

  • Monsignor John Brenkle, Pastor, St. Helena Catholic Church
  • JoAnn Consiglieri, Former Sister of St. Joseph of Orange
  • Veronica Jacobi, Santa Rosa City Councilmember
  • Father Angelito Peries, Pastor, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Windsor
  • Martin Bennett, Santa Rosa Junior College
  • Father Raymond G. Decker, Pastor Emeritus, Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice
  • Rev. Blythe Sawyer, United Church of Christ, Petaluma
  • Tony White, Professor Emeritus, Sonoma State University
  • Rev. Chris Bell, Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Santa Rosa
  • David Walls, Professor Emeritus, Sonoma State University
  • Holly Jaramillo, Sonoma County Latino Democratic Club
  • Stephen Harper, Social Action Chair, Congregation Shomrei Torah
  • Chris Fadeff, Treasurer, Marin Democratic Party
  • Lisa Maldonado, North Bay Labor Council
  • Caroline Bañuelos, Sonoma County Latino Democratic Club
  • Carl Patrick, IMPACT! Petaluma
  • Michael Aparicio, Santa Rosa Junior College


  1. North Bay Labor Council letter to Eliseo Medina:
  2. Religious leaders’ letter:
  3. SEIU refuses mediation by Secretary Reich and Monsignor John Brenkle:
  4. Letter from Dr. Joe Fahey to Memorial Hospital:

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The National Union of Healthcare Workers is an independent, member-led union, dedicated to improving the lives of healthcare workers and the people they care for. More than 100,000 workers in hospitals, Kaiser Permanente facilities, homecare, and nursing homes have petitioned to join NUHW since January 2009. |