Fate of USC hospital union scheduled to be decided this month

An election that will determine the fate of a healthcare workers’ union at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale has been scheduled for Jan. 30 and 31.

Members of the union will have the opportunity to cast their vote on whether or not they want to keep in place the third-party representation they fought for just three years ago.

Results of the election, which is being overseen by the National Labor Review Board, should be known by the evening of Jan. 31, according to Sean Wherley, a spokesman for Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, known as SEIU-UHW.

Since October, surgical buyer Andrew Brown has been fighting to dissolve the union, when he filed a petition that was rejected by the review board because it arrived two days too late. Brown filed a new petition on Jan. 1.

“Members of the union are talking to one another, reminding each other of the benefits of having a unified voice in the workplace,” and that voice’s positive impact on patient safety and wage increases, Wherley said.

But, according to Brown, he has the support of a majority of the members of the union that includes patient services representatives, obstetrics technicians and phlebotomists.

“What the union was telling us was lies,” Brown said in December, referring to what he said was the union’s unfulfilled promise of 5% pay raises in the first contract. “The majority of the people in the unit have realized that.”

The type of petition Brown filed requires support from 30% of union members. Brown has pegged the number of members at 230. Wherley said the number may be closer to 248.

Coinciding with the final day of the election is the expiration date of the current contract between the hospital and union.

Wherley said union representatives made a request to the hospital to offer potential meeting dates to continue contract negotiations but have not received a reply.

With no new contract in sight, most of the terms of the existing contract will continue, Wherley said.

“We need more sessions,” Wherley said. “The work is not finished.”

Representatives for the hospital did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In mid-December, SEIU members picketed outside both USC Verdugo Hills and Providence St. Jospeh in Burbank in response to what they claim are unacceptably slow negotiations.

At the time, more pickets and potential employee strikes at the respective hospitals were on the table.

Prior to the picket, SEIU filed a complaint against USC Verdugo Hills with the NLRB, alleging its management refused to bargain. That complaint is still pending, Wherley said.

Twitter: @lila_seidman