St. Louis nurses might face firing for unpaid dues

  1. 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.

    = = = =
    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???
    Last edit by NRSKarenRN on Mar 14, '02
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  3. by   Fairshare
    I am not an expert on agency fees but the little I understand is that they probably cannot be avoided. If you disagree with the amount you can challenge them according to procedures the union is required follow. You can challenge them annually.
    Look for the notice, file an objection and carefully read the Beck notice.
  4. by   fiestynurse
    It is argued in favor of the closed shop that unions can win a fair return for their labor only through solidarity. Since all employees of a facility share in the advantages won through collective bargaining, all workers should contribute to union funds. (Atleast pay the service fee)
    Arguments in favor of the open shop are that forcing unwilling workers to pay union dues is an infringement of their rights. (ie:religious rights)

    Union dues are generally deducted from employees paychecks. I don't understand why the union has to check with the employees to see if they are on medical leaves or have changed to management positions? Why doesn't the employer give them this information? Sounds like an unfair labor practice on the employers part. The facts are somewhat confusing.
  5. by   Fairshare
    Good points. The non-member who is compelled to pay an "agency fee" or "fairshare fee" should only pay for union representation without being compelled to pay for the political activities of the union.
  6. by   MellowOne
    I personally won't work at a union hospital. "You can't make me do that. I'll call the union" is a mantra that I just won't listen to.

    At union shops, firing incompetent employees is prohibitively difficult and expensive, so a nurse pretty much has to kill a patient in front of witnesses with a video camera to get the axe.

    Not to mention the fact that Unions blindly support a political party that I'm philosophically opposed to. But that's just me.

    Be well...

    The Mellow One
  7. by   menetopali
    while i have no objection to any individual joining a union, or a union acting on behalf of its members, this thing at St. John's just sounds really bad to me.

    from what i can tell a 'closed shop' provides for the union extorting money from all who work there regardless of the individuals view on the union or its actions. this 'closed shop' model sounds like it is the apex of unfair labor laws. if the account is accurate then the nurses at St. John's are victims of a protection racket set up. it sounds like: "pay up or you can't work".

    at an 'open shop' i presume you protected from the union "pay up or you can't work" set up and at least, to me, this is a fair model to all.

    as for me, i will never pay union dues or a 'service fee' to be allowed to work. if this means that i can't work some places, so be it. my mother was forced to pay money to be allowed to work and she resented it bitterly (she was a nyc teacher). my wife, son, and i are a bit more mobile than i was as a kid so i can avoid the extortion of the union.
  8. by   movealong
    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 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
  9. by   MellowOne
    Quote from movealong
    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.
    Good for you. You're fortunate. I went to nursing school at a Union hospital, and what I saw was far different than what you describe. In my entire time there, I had a grand total of two nurses with whom I was assigned actually help with patient care and try to teach me anything. For the most part, they sat in the break room and *****ed about how bad they had it while we did their work for them.

    I have no doubt that in the past, Unions have done some good things. They've been instrumental in improving work conditions and compensation in many industries.

    That said, it is also well known that many Unions in the past have been very corrupt, employing violent tactics while getting involved with organized crime. I believe that part of the reason that American companies are sending jobs overseas is the demands of Unions that high-school dropouts make $18 an hour to do a job that it takes a day to learn.

    Like most other things, Unions aren't all bad, and Unions aren't all good. The truth is somewhere in the middle. The Unions' blind devotion to, and partial stanglehold on the Democratic party is turning into a bad thing for both as the Democratic party is increasingly losing power.

    Be well...

    The Mellow One