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Vote on keeping USC hospital union could come within weeks, employee says

Members and staff of SEIU-UHW picket for contract resolution outside Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glend
A surgical employee at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital has filed a second petition to take a vote on whether or not to keep a union that represents some healthcare workers. Union leaders continue to negotiate a contract with the hospital and, as shown here, picketed last month.
(Raul Roa / Glendale News-Press)

A vote on whether or not to keep a healthcare workers’ union at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale could come as early as the end of the month, according to an employee who filed for the action.

Since October, surgical buyer Andrew Brown has been fighting to dissolve the union formed three years ago, when he filed a petition that was rejected by the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, because it arrived two days too late.

A new petition was filed last Wednesday, Brown said. No date for a vote has been set yet.

A hearing for the petition is scheduled for Jan. 11 at an NLRB regional office in West Los Angeles.

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Union representatives have filed several unfair labor-practice complaints against the hospital, including one that alleged the facility’s administration has helped Brown. He said those complaints must be resolved before a vote can proceed.

A spokeswoman for USC Verdugo Hills did not respond to requests for comment.

Filing a petition requires support from 30% of the union members, according to Grisell Rodriguez, who is leading the field campaign contract between the hospital and Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, known as SEIU-UHW.

The current contract is set to expire Jan. 31.

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According to Brown, he has the support of the majority of the 230-member union, which includes patient services representatives, obstetrics technicians and phlebotomists.

Grace Garcia Hurtado, a certified nursing assistant at the hospital, said the unionized employees are focused on bargaining for higher wages and better benefits.

“[We] aren’t going to be distracted by these attempts to divide us and weaken our voices,” Hurtado said in a statement through SEIU spokesman Steve Trossman.

Brown said in November that all he wants is a secret election, so employees can express their views about SEIU, “but the union and NLRB are working overtime to prevent that from happening.”

According to Brown, SEIU has not delivered on its promises for pay raises and free healthcare.

Late last month, dozens of healthcare employees and their SEIU union representatives picketed outside USC Verdugo Hills, as well as Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Burbank, claiming the two hospitals’ respective administrators were dragging their feet on contract negotiations.

lila.seidman@latimes.com

Twitter: @lila_seidman

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