Burbank Hospital Nurses Go Public With Arguments for Union

Times Staff Writer

Nurses at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank are taking their union campaign to the streets -- or, more precisely, to the local bus shelters.

The nurses are advertising their aims and frustrations in posters asking the hospital, "Listen to your employees so patients get the care they deserve."

The ads are going up six months after the hospital's registered nurses voted to form a union. The hospital, saying the election was illegal, challenged the results.

In January, it lost and appealed the decision to the National Labor Relations Board.

"We respect the right to organize," said Dan Boyle, Providence Saint Joseph's spokesman. "We filed objections about how the election was handled."

Boyle wouldn't say what those objections are.

But according to NLRB documents, the hospital has accused the Service Employees International Union of voter intimidation and interfering with employees' ability to make "free and uncoerced choices in the election."

Calling the hospital's objections "frivolous," union spokeswoman Lisa Hubbard said the union hopes the bus-stop ads will drum up community support.

"We want CEO Arnold Schaffer's phone to be ringing off the hook," Hubbard said.

Hubbard hopes that Saturday's "Rally in Valley," a march to Johnny Carson Park in Burbank, will do the same.

Unions representing nurses, once a minor force in Southern California, have become increasingly aggressive at hospitals in Los Angeles County. But this is the first time in Southern California that nurses have used bus ads, said Hubbard, whose organization represents 25,000 nurses and health care workers in the state.

Nurses at St. Joseph's say they are frustrated by the hospital's attempts to delay the certification of what they call a legitimate vote. The final tally was 274 nurses for the union and 244 against.

The bus-shelter ads -- 15 of them, placed near the hospital -- are a way to let people know that a staffing shortage and other problems at the hospital affect the kind of care they receive, said Jane Johnson, a 25-year veteran registered nurse at Providence Saint Joseph's.

She is one of the three women pictured on the posters. The ads will be up through March.

Headed to the hospital for his weekly cancer treatment, Dan Roth, 61, stopped to read the sign near the front entrance on the corner of Alameda Avenue and Buena Vista Street.

The North Hollywood resident, who has been a regular patient of Saint Joseph's for two years, said he had no idea the nurses were not already represented by a union.

"Nobody's ever said a word to me about their grievances, which is amazing within itself." You'd think some of it would have slipped out," said the retired actor. Kristen Jennings, a first-time mother who received prenatal care and took parenting classes at the hospital, said she would do anything to help. Her daughter, Ella, is now a giggly 19-month-old with blue eyes and a head of blond curls.

"There were so many problems I didn't foresee -- how to get my child to sleep, to eat, and making it a routine.

"They gave me their home phone numbers and their addresses," Jennings said. "And I used them."

For The Record Los Angeles Times Friday March 14, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 47 words Type of Material: Correction Burbank nurses -- An article in the California section Thursday about posters placed by nurses at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank incorrectly stated that Service Employees International Union represents 25,000 nurses and health care workers in California. The union represents 250,000 workers in the state.
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