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Hospital owner’s dispute with union to go before judge

Almost a year of failed bargaining between Community Health Systems Inc. and its 1,100 unionized employees will be addressed 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 have 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 SEIU.

Community Health Systems officials released a statement defending their actions.

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

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

The union and Community Health Systems have been at odds over contract issues. CHS 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.