Thursday: Vigil planned outside Napa hospital facing federal complaint for coercing workers

NewsAugust 23, 2017

As a hearing wraps up in federal court into allegations that Queen of the Valley Medical Center executives coerced employees and illegally withdrew recognition of their union, more than 150 community members and caregivers will hold a vigil outside the hospital to urge its CEO to recognize the union and work with employees to improve patient care.

The hospital, which is Napa County’s largest private employer, has waged a scorched earth campaign to overturn its employees vote to form a union, threatening to challenge the vote all the way to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint in May accusing Queen management of forcibly changing the schedules of several workers to keep them from participating in union activities and threatening to retaliate against others if they supported the union.

The labor board is requesting Judge Sharon Steckler to order the hospital to bargain in good faith and hold meetings to inform workers how their rights were violated.

“I’m stunned how ruthless the leaders of our local hospital have been toward us,” said Ray Herrera, a Queen radiology technologist. “We wanted a bigger voice in our workplace, and they’ve done everything they can to silence us.”
“Anyone who supports workers’ rights should be deeply disturbed by what’s happening at Queen of the Valley, said Marty Bennett, co-chair of North Bay Jobs With Justice. “This is a level of union-busting that we rarely see in the Bay Area, and it confirms the worst fears of the hospital workers that management cares only maximizing profits — not listening to their concerns about working conditions and patient care.”

Approximately 420 Queen caregivers voted to form a union last November amid growing concern that Providence St. Joseph Health, the hospital’s Washington State-based corporate parent, was shortchanging patient care. The hospital has been fined over $2 million in recent years for high patient infection rates, and caregivers say chronic understaffing has resulted in dangerously long waits for emergency care.

Instead of working with caregivers, Queen CEO Larry Coomes withdrew recognition of the union and initiated a costly legal fight to overturn the election that the pro-union side won by 20 percentage points.

Coomes wrote that workers were disenfranchised because the labor board conducted the election by mail rather than inside the hospital. This ignores the fact that 90 percent of eligible workers cast ballots and that California is moving toward conducting elections primarily through the mail to increase voter turnout.

The hospital has already lost two appeals of the union vote, and is now threatening to sue the federal labor board to overturn the outcome.

“I’ve never seen a hospital go to such extreme lengths and make such ridiculous claims to try to overturn a free and fair election,” NUHW President Sal Rosselli said. “Queen executives should be working with caregivers, not wasting money fighting to silence them.”

The vigil is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. in front of the hospital at 1000 Trancas St., Napa. There will be several guest speakers and music.

Queen of the Valley Medical Center is a 208-bed acute care hospital in Napa. It was founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange and is now operated by Providence St. Joseph Health.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers represents more than 13,000 caregivers in California including more than 400 nursing assistants, housekeepers, dietary aides and other service and technical workers at Queen of the Valley Medical Center.