July 28, 2010 in City

Union votes to strike

Deaconess, Valley workers claim unfair labor practices
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Union workers at Deaconess Medical Center and Valley Hospital and Medical Center have voted to authorize a one-day strike against the facilities because of alleged unfair labor practices.

The vote came Monday night from union workers at the two facilities, according to a union news release.

A date was not set for the one-day strike, which can only occur after giving the hospitals 10 days’ notice of the action.

The heightened labor tension comes after the workers union spent 20 months trying to reach a contract with the Tennessee-based, for-profit owner, Community Health Systems.

Community Health Systems purchased the facilities in 2008 from Empire Health Services.

The workers union – Service Employees International Union Local 1199NW – has brought allegations of unfair labor practices against Community Health Systems for reducing retirement, health and dental benefits, failing to bargain in good faith and engaging in union-busting tactics.

A trial before a law judge of the National Labor Relations Board was postponed from its intended start on July 13 so that the two sides could resume negotiations. The trial was postponed again on Monday until August.

The next bargaining session is set for Friday.

A union official said the strike authorization was union members’ desire to say “enough is enough” in the delay of progress in bargaining.

A statement issued by management at the two facilities said, “The hospitals respect and value our employees. We remain committed to good faith bargaining and hopeful that a mutually acceptable agreement can be reached soon.”

The statement indicated that management had not been notified of the strike vote by Tuesday morning.

Community Health Systems officials were not available for comment Tuesday morning, but two telephone messages requesting a management response were left at corporate offices.

Prior to Community Health Systems’ purchase of the two facilities, the nurses at Deaconess voted to decertify their union affiliation.

The union said in a news release that it represents 660 service and technical workers at Deaconess and more than 450 nurses and technical and service workers at the Valley facility.

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