Hospital Workers Vote Today on Union

From a Times Staff Writer

Service, maintenance, clerical and technical workers at Antelope Valley Hospital will decide today whether to unionize, officials said.

The vote affecting more than half of the hospital's employees comes three months after registered nurses at the Lancaster facility approved their first collective-bargaining agreement since choosing in the spring to be represented by the California Nurses Assn.

Nursing aides, housekeepers, kitchen and patient transportation workers and business office staff members will decide whether they want to be represented by the Service Employees International Union, the Caregivers and Healthcare Employees Union, or neither, said John Sullivan, vice president of human resources for the 350-bed hospital.

The caregivers union represents 3,500 employees throughout California. The service employees union represents 1.6 million workers and 120,000 retirees nationwide.

With 25,000 members, Service Employees Local 399 bills itself as the fastest-growing union in Southern California. Spokeswoman Livia Gershon said that workers would benefit most from an organization that offers "strength in numbers."

The caregivers union is touting its alliance with the nurses union. Spokesman Fernando Losada said that the combined forces of nurses and service workers would offer workers the most clout at the bargaining table.

If this week's attempt fails, the two unions would not be permitted to try again for a year. But another union could attempt to organize the workers, officials said.

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