Jan 9, 2014
By Ann Converso, LPAT coordinator for CWA's Healthcare Coordinating Council
At a small hospital in southwestern New York, 120 technical workers seeking to organize with CWA Local 1168 have battled a fierce anti-union campaign.
Workers at Olean General Hospital.
The group, which includes licensed practical nurses (LPNs), respiratory therapists, operating room techs, and the like, began its union drive last spring. As their symbol of solidarity, the worker committee chose an hourglass – to symbolize the message "It's time. It's way past time."
They had not received a raise in more than three years, respiratory therapist Sue DiPaolo said. Workers were also frustrated with management's changing their shifts with just a few hours' notice, no lunch breaks, no extra pay for working overtime (they would be made to come in late the next day or leave early the next day), and very long hours in the OR with no time off in between cases.
In the lead-up to the union authorization vote, hospital administrators sent anti-union emails to all employees and held "town hall" meetings. Supervisors cornered workers for mandatory one-on-ones. The CEO made regular rounds to all areas – a sight never seen before. "It was very clear that management did not want another union at the hospital," said LPN Joelle Hyson.
On Election Day, managers and the lawyer from the union-busting firm Jackson Lewis escorted union observers in and out of the hospital as if they were criminals. Security guards hired from an outside firm questioned everyone who entered the hospital all day. Every manager (even those with no employees eligible to vote) was required to be in the hospital that day and attend the vote count.
After all these efforts at intimidation, the vote was too close to call; 18 challenged ballots will determine the outcome. Those challenges will be decided by the NLRB soon.
This article originally appeared in Labor Notes. Read the full version here.