St. Louis nurses might face firing for unpaid dues
A group of about 80 nurses at St. John's Mercy Medical Center near St. Louis might face dismissal for not paying their union dues.
By Judith VandeWater
Of The Post-Dispatch
Tuesday, March 12, 2002.
About 80 registered nurses at St. John's Mercy Medical Center in Creve Coeur might be terminated for not paying union dues, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 655 said Monday.
A union security clause in the nursing contract, the first in the state between an AFL-CIO union and a nongovernment hospital, requires covered registered nurses to pay dues or service fees. The first payment was due in January for February.
Union President Nick Torpea said 1,358 of 1,478 eligible nurses have joined the union; the number fluctuates daily. Thirty-eight did not join but pay a service fee that is about 7 percent lower than the dues rate. Those who pay service fees can't attend union meetings or vote in elections. Torpea said the union is trying to reach non-paying nurses to determine whether they are exempt from dues because they are on leave or have taken management jobs.
St. John's will not discuss the terms and the conditions of the contract ratified by nurses in October, spokesman Bill McShane said.
A letter the union sent workers in February said the contract requires the hospital to terminate a worker within 10 days of receiving notice from the union that the employee has not paid dues. Torpea said the union sent a list Monday of non-paying nurses.
He said the union kept dues low and waived initiation fees for St. John's nurses. "We don't want to hurt the hospital" when a nursing shortage will make filling vacancies difficult, he said.
Anti-union material circulating in the final days before a union election at St. Anthony's Medical Center uses St. John's in its efforts to defeat the United Health Care Workers. "Do not let anyone supporting the UHCW tell you that the union will not ask the hospital to fire employees," one flier said.
Four groups at St. Anthony's - registered nurses; skilled technicians, including licensed practical nurses; skilled maintenance workers; and service workers - will vote as separate units on designating the United Health Care Workers Union as their collective bargaining agent. The election, the union's third at St. Anthony's, will take place Wednesday through Saturday.
Jerry Tucker, an adviser to the United Health Care Workers, said the unionization process at St. John's has been raised several times by opponents in the St. Anthony's election.
Two members of a group of nurses trying to decertify the UFCW at St. John's staffed an anti-union campaign table in St. Anthony's cafeteria in recent weeks, he said, and a letter stamped with the name of a St. John's nurse warned St. Anthony's employees that in the short term, the unionization process has been painful and destructive.
For a few years in the mid- to late 1990s, St. John's and St. Anthony's were part of the Unity Health System, which is defunct now. Tucker said managers told St. Anthony's workers that their lot would improve once the hospital withdrew from Unity.
"Those workers who have been through the cycle have gotten a pretty confirmed view that things have not gotten better," Tucker said.
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Paying their dues
Union dues vary for registered nurses at St. John's Mercy Medical Center, depending on the number of hours worked:
Avg. hours worked Monthly dues
32 hours or more a week .... $35
24 to 32 hours a week ...... $33
16 to 24 hours a week ...... $28
less than 16 hours a week or
more than 52 hours a quarter $18
52 hours or less a quarter $15
Source: United Food and Commercial Workers Union
Reporter Judith VandeWater
Guess who's behind getting this info to the press???
I have actually worked in a closed shop, and did so for 13 years. In all that time mellow, I never heard anything even close to "you can't make me do that, I'll call the union". For goodness sake!
What I did see in those 13 years was initial contract offerings by the hospital that were so poor....as to be insulting. I saw them try to put into place some poor practices for floor nursing that were stopped: because of the union. I did see a union that helped provide me with the best benefits I have ever had, to date. And I worked hard for them, and all the nurses I worked with did the same. The nurses worked well together as nurses tended to stay there for years due to those benefits the union got and safeguarded for us. We all were knowledgable about how the hospital system we worked for was set up, knew most of the workers in other departments, and it was to the patient's benefit, I believe.
I did see nurses fired in that unionized hospital. nobody wants to work with a bad nurse: not her fellow nurses, not the doctors............
I found my coworkers were of some of the highest quality in that hospital. And having left there 10 years ago, I have yet to find a group of nurses since that worked so well as a team. That's been my real life experience.
Last edit by movealong on Apr 2, '04