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Medical center will recognize nurses union

Ben Godar

Nearly eight months after nurses at Providence St. Joseph Medical

Center voted to form a union, the National Labor Relations Board has

certified the election.

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In a six-page ruling mailed to the union May 30, a three-member

board panel said hospital officials failed to demonstrate that union

officials “engaged in conduct that reasonably tended to interfere

with the employees’ free and un-coerced choice in the election.”

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The hospital’s decision not to recognize the union until an appeal

process had been completed touched off protests by nurses and union

officials and a series of advertisements posted at Burbank bus stops.

Jane Johnson, a registered nurse at the hospital, said morale had

been low among nurses for the past few months.

“I’m so thankful we can put this all behind us and move forward,”

Johnson said.

In September, nurses voted 274-244 to form a union with Service

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Employees International Union, but the labor board did not certify

the election until January because of contested ballots.

The board also rejected allegations by the hospital that union

organizers interfered with and coerced nurses on the day of the

election. Hospital officials appealed that ruling to the national

board, which also rejected the hospital’s objections.

Hospital officials declined to comment on the decision, but a

statement released by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Myron Berdischewsky

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said “we will prepare to move ahead with negotiations and bargain in

good faith with SEIU in order to reach a fair and equitable

agreement."Spokesman Dan Boyle said the hospital began the appeal

process after several nurses who voted against the union raised

concerns about the behavior of organizers during the election.

However, SEIU spokeswoman Jennifer Kelly said the appeals were

nothing more than stalling tactics that Providence Health Systems has

used at other hospitals where nurses attempted to unionize.

“They went through decision after decision, looking for any legal

loopholes they could find to slow the process,” Kelly said.

A date to begin negotiations has not been set, but Johnson said

the primary concern for her and other nurses would be staffing.

The hospital currently meets its staffing needs by hiring

part-time traveling nurses, but Johnson said the amount of time it

takes to train them takes away from the time nurses can spend on

patient care.

“We believe if the hospital had a more attractive package they

wouldn’t have to hire such a large transient workforce,” she said.


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