I am in receipt of your March 16, 2012 letter related to the ongoing labor negotiations between St. Charles Health System and the Service Employees International Union Local 49, and your concerns expressed in the letter are noted. However, I strongly feel this is a local issue between a private employer and its employees.

St. Charles is a Thompson Reuters Top 50 health system and our Bend hospital has been recognized as a leader in innovative excellence for our health reform efforts. We are dedicated to our caregivers and are committed to providing fair, market-based compensation and a benefits package that rivals or exceeds those of health systems throughout the state.

This issue has been a contentious one for our caregivers for the past 18 months with the initial vote going to the SEIU by a slim margin of six votes. We have negotiated in good faith through more than 30 sessions -- some of which have included a federal mediator -- and have reached tentative agreements on the majority of the contract provisions. We were truly hoping for a resolution through bargaining, but have not yet reached a contract agreement.

I completely agree with you that the decision to form, join or dissolve a union belongs to our employees. We have supported that premise all along. In fact it was a grassroots group of our frontline caregivers who came together on its own to file the decertification petition with the NLRB. We have supported the NLRB's decision to allow our caregivers to participate in a decertification election.

St. Charles leaders have in no way attempted to intervene in this election. We have been available for our caregivers, we have answered their questions and we have shared or opinions. It is the SEIU who is intervening by filing last-minute ULP's that effectively block this election.

f you truly value the voice of the employee, please ask the SEIU to allow this election to go forward so that our St. Charles caregivers can be heard.

Respectfully,

James A. Diegel, FACHE

President and CEO

St. Charles Health Systems