Hospital workers say USC is hurting patient care with reckless campaign against their own employees

NewsMay 19, 2010

“They’ve turned a place of healing into a battleground,” says one caregiver

LOS ANGELES—Healthcare workers at USC University Hospital make life-and-death decisions every day, but now they have even more to worry about on the job: USC management is waging an aggressive campaign to take away their union and silence their voices on patient care issues.

Two longtime employees have already been illegally suspended and threatened with arrest for talking with their co-workers about their union, and last week hospital CEO Mitch Creem personally ordered security guards to arrest three union organizers while they were eating with workers in the hospital’s public cafeteria.

“We all work here because we want to help our community and provide quality care when people need it most, and the intimidation and new attacks by management are a real distraction,” said Alex Corea, a respiratory therapist at the hospital. “They’ve turned a place of healing into a battleground.”

Faculty and student groups have spoken out against the suspensions and arrests and called for USC to fire The Weissman Group, a firm retained by the University that specializes in “Union Avoidance Consulting and Strategy” according to its website.

USC University Hospital workers organized their union six years ago so they would have a voice to advocate for safer staffing levels and wage standards that help retain experienced staff. USC opposed the effort then because they didn’t want to include their employees in decision-making.

The current battle began when a majority of union workers at the hospital decided to switch unions from SEIU to the member-led National Union of Healthcare Workers, and the National Labor Relations Board scheduled an election. In elections to choose between unions, a “No Union” option is added to the ballot automatically.

USC management jumped at the opportunity, hiring The Weissman Group to press employees to vote “No Union” and give up their voice at the hospital.

Workers will vote on May 26 and 27.

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The National Union of Healthcare Workers is California’s fastest-growing union, representing caregivers in every job classification. More than 100,000 workers in hospitals, nursing homes, and Kaiser Permanente facilities have petitioned for elections to join NUHW and win a strong, democratic voice at work.