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Judge to hear hospital union’s complaints

Almost a year of failed bargaining between Community Health Systems Inc. and its 1,100 unionized employees has resulted in a hearing next month by an administrative law judge.

The Seattle regional office of the National Labor Relations Board sought the hearing. The Service Employees International Union 1199 NW claims that Deaconess Medical Center and Valley Hospital and Medical Center have not bargained in good faith and instead engaged in union-busting activities.

The union said hospital owners refuse to make new proposals, withhold information and won’t respond to the union’s offers.

“We’re frustrated and see these NLRB’s actions as affirmation that CHS is being unfair,” said Chris Barton, secretary treasurer for the union.

Community Health officials released a media statement defending their actions.

“The hospitals are confident that they have conducted themselves appropriately and they intend to vigorously defend themselves.”

If the judge determines that the union’s complaints have merit, the complaint will be forwarded to the National Labor Relations Board.

The union and Community Health have been at odds over many contract issues. Community Health purchased Deaconess and Valley last year. The Nashville, Tenn., company owns 118 hospitals across the country. About six of those have unions representing nurses, Barton said.