CA:Mercy Healthcare Sacramento facing new union vote

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Mercy facing new union vote: The NLRB rejected the organizers' appeal of the last workers election.

By Lisa Rapaport

Bee Staff Writer

(Published Oct. 19, 2001)

Mercy Healthcare Sacramento employees who last year rejected Local 250 of Service Employees International Union will vote in new organizing elections next month, union officials said Thursday.

Nearly 2,000 service and technical workers at Mercy General Hospital and Methodist Hospital in Sacramento, Mercy Hospital of Folsom, and Mercy San Juan Hospital in Carmichael will vote in a SEIU election scheduled for Nov. 13 and 14.

"The last vote was hard-fought by management and we lost by a narrow margin," said Mary Hillman, a respiratory therapist at Mercy San Juan who has championed union efforts within the health system for several years.

In simultaneous votes in January 2000, Mercy technical employees voted 305-193 against the union, while service workers voted 701-598 against affiliating with Local 250.

The process was compromised by management attempts to discourage organizers, Hillman said. But Local 250 failed in efforts to appeal the election results before the National Labor Relations Board in April 2000.

While the NLRB did find Mercy management had violated fair labor law in some instances by threatening organizers and videotaping union activities, the board found those infractions had little effect on the vote outcome.

"We believe we handled ourselves responsibly," said Mercy spokeswoman Jill Dryer.

Since the last election, SEIU and Catholic Healthcare West, Mercy's parent company, hammered out an agreement governing future union drives.

Provisions include:

*All materials distributed will be approved by both CHW and SEIU officials.

*A hearing officer jointly selected by CHW and SEIU will oversee the election and settle any disputes through arbitration.

*Management will not conduct mandatory meetings with workers to discuss the union.

"This time, the campaign has been very positive and very respectful on both sides," Hillman said.

SEIU's Local 250 currently represents some workers at Sutter and Kaiser facilities in the Sacramento area. Nearly 9,000 Catholic Healthcare West employees already are members of SEIU in California, including 7,500 who have joined the union in the past 18 months.

Workers now organizing at Mercy include certified nursing assistants, dietary aides, lab assistants, licensed vocational nurses, office assistants and respiratory, radiology and operating-room technicians.

These employees want more input in patient care and staffing levels, union organizer Hillman said.

Mercy spokeswoman Dryer said the health care system supports workers' right to organize and is fully cooperating with the union to ensure a fair election.

"The last election was almost two years ago and right now, we are focused on the choice our employees face in November," Dryer said. "We're committed to making sure they make an informed decision when the time comes to vote."


The Bee's Lisa Rapaport can be reached at [email protected].

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