Hospital workers to vote on unionizing
A workers’ union could soon become a reality for staff at New Milford and Danbury hospitals, member facilites of the Western Connecticut Health Network.
About 800 nursing assistants and other workers at those facilities are eligible to vote Friday, June 19, whether to establish a union.
Hospital workers claim inadequate staffing and less than ideal treatment from management are the chief concerns.
Pay could also be an issue. Currently, it ranges from $12 to $20 an hour.
Nerval White, a certified nursing assistant, told the Associated Press this week the organizing campaign had its beginnings more than a year ago when management cut weekend and night pay differentials, “and told housekeeping they can go work at McDonald’s if they don’t like it.”
The lost pay differentials add up to between $6,000 and $10,000 a year, White told the AP.
Hospital management has been charged with interference in workers’ attempts to unionize by AFT Connecticut, an affiliate of the American Federation of Labor.
Managers are accused of offering pay increases to discourage union support, dismissing the importance of unions to dissuade employees from voting for AFT Connecticut and other unlawful statements, the National Labor Relations Board said.
The agency is investigating.
AFT Connecticut and New Milford nurses union president Joanne Chapin said labor consultants have been brought in by the WCHN, the umbrella organization of both hospitals.
“These workers have been required to attend mandated meetings with representatives of National Labor Consultants, where the atmosphere is one of harassment, coercion and intimidation,” said Matt O’Connor, AFT Connecticut spokesman.
Andrea Rynn, a spokeswoman for WCHN, told The Spectrum Tuesday, “As an organization, we are committed to maintaining an environment of respect and open communication with our employees.”
Rynn said, during this process, “we felt it was important for us to have an open dialogue with our employees and also provide them with more than one perspective on this subject.”
“It has been brought to our attention that individuals of the federally regulated firm hired to provide guidance during union membership campaign have backgrounds contrary to our organizational values,” Rynn added. “Once we learned this information, we immediately terminated the contract with the firm and all of their associates.”
National Labor Consultants chief operating officer Martin Dreiss served 33 months in federal prison on security fraud charges, according to federal documents from the U.S. District Court Eastern District of New York.
The sentence was filed in 1999. Dreiss is making restitution payments in the amount of $1.5 million, court documents state. Payments began 30 days after his prison release.
“Our researchers were able to lock Dreiss identity to the federal prison sentence through lean documents,” said O’Connor, who produced notice of lean documents from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Eastern District of New York dated Sept. 15, 2000.
“We don’t understand why Western Connecticut Health Network would bring these people in,” Chapin said. “We have a really good relationship in New Milford with the hospital. The union hasn’t been a detriment.”