Press Democrat: Charges fly over union vote at Memorial Hospital

NewsJanuary 22, 2010


Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and the National Union of Healthcare Workers have resolved the question of 17 ballots challenged after a union election last December — but that’s about the only thing they agree on.

Both sides recently signed off on a finding by the National Labor Relations Board that only four of the 17 challenged ballots are valid. But they have very different conclusions about what that means.

“We won our election,” said Melissa Bosanco, a care partner at Memorial Hospital and a NUHW supporter.

Debra Miller, vice president of human resources at Memorial Hospital, said it’s a little premature to claim victory. The federal labor board has yet to complete its review of the hospital’s claim that the union and its representatives used coercive tactics that resulted in an unfair election.

The December vote affected almost 700 employees at Memorial Hospital, including radiology and respiratory technicians, nurses aides, housekeepers and dietary workers.

The NUHW received 283 votes, while its rival Service Employees International Union got only 13. The choice of opting for neither union — supported by the hospital administration — won 263 votes.

The NUHW had to get 50 percent plus one vote to win. In a finding that was sent to all three parties last week for their approval, the NLRB determined that 13 of the votes were cast by people who were not eligible to vote.

That brings down the number of total votes, which in turn bumps up the percentage of votes won by NUHW.

However, Miller said that beyond the question of the 17 ballots is the way the election was waged. In effect, hospital administrators are calling into question the rest of the vote.

“We had serious concerns about the behavior prior to and during the election by NUHW and their representatives,” Miller said. “We feel very strongly that our employees were not given the opportunity to have a fair election.”

Memorial outlined 10 objections in a two-page document, alleging that the union engaged in: electioneering at or near the polling place; campaign speeches within 24 hours before the opening of the polls; and surveillance and interrogation of employees, including videotaping workers who tried to attend employer-sponsored informational meetings about the election.

Bosanco and other union officials dismiss the charges as an effort to scuttle a historic vote by hospital workers. Organizing began at Memorial Hospital more than six years ago.

“There’s nothing there that holds enough merit to overturn our election,” Bosanco said.

Tim Peck, the NLRB’s assistant regional director in San Francisco, said the objections are still under review and the recommendations regarding the challenged ballots won’t go before the full board until that review is complete.

SEIU could not be reached for comment.

Source: Santa Rosa Press Democrat