BEND, Ore. - Nearly two years after voting in a union, and after numerous bargaining sessions failed to reach an initial contract, service workers at St. Charles Medical Center-Bend voted Thursday to end their Service Employees International Union representation.
The decertification vote was 334-212, a far wider margin then the one by which the SEIU representation was approved in early 2011.
The hospital noted that both sides have a week to file objections to the election -- but clearly angry union leaders instead said they "may seek civil damages" against the hospital over the issues they raised.
The decertification vote comes just days after St. Charles-Bend nurses represented by the Oregon Nurses Association overwhelmingly ratified a new three-year contract.
As for the SEIU vote, the two parties issued news releases Thursday night after the ballots were counted. Here they are, in full -- first the hospital's, then the union's:
St. Charles caregivers vote to decertify representation by SEIU
BEND – In a vote of 334 to 212, caregivers at St. Charles Bend chose to decertify their representation by the Service Employees International Union Local 49 today.
"We respect our caregivers and believe in their right to choose whether to be represented by a union," said Kirk Schueler, Chief Administrative Officer for St. Charles Health System. "Our caregivers have been asking for this decertification election for nearly a year and we are so happy they finally had the chance to have their voices heard on this important issue."
St. Charles leaders understand that this group has been divided on the issue of representation. All members of the St. Charles family will work together to move forward.
"All of our caregivers are dedicated to providing the best possible care and service to our patients and our community," said Jay Henry, CEO of St. Charles Bend. "This vote allows us to continue our focus on that important mission."
By law, all parties involved have until Nov. 8 to decide whether to file objections to the election.
About St. Charles Health System
St. Charles Health System, Inc., headquartered in Bend, Oregon, owns and operates the St. Charles medical centers in Bend and Redmond, leases and operates Pioneer Memorial Hospital in Prineville and provides management services for Mountain View Hospital in Madras. SCHS is a private, not-for-profit Oregon corporation and is the largest employer in Central Oregon with more than 3,000 caregivers in Bend, Redmond and Prineville. In addition, there are more than 350 active medical staff members and nearly 200 visiting medical staff members who partner with SCHS to provide a wide range of care and service to our communities.
St. Charles management uses Patient care dollars
TO Dismantle Care Givers Union
(Bend, Oregon) After a two year process, hospital CEOs with the help of the second largest anti-union consultant in America have decertified the union at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Oregon. Leading up to the election, hospital management dedicated patient care dollars to hire two consultants to coach hospital managers, and convince workers to vote against union representation.
"We are disappointed in the process and a law that allows a non-profit hospital to use patient care funds to disband a union that caregivers have repeatedly demonstrated they want," said Jesse Stemmler, Communications Specialist at Service Employees International Local 49 (SEIU Local 49). "It became clear soon after caregivers organized their union that St. Charles was not taking bargaining seriously and were going to instead do whatever it took to disband the caregiver's union."
After more than forty bargaining sessions management was unwilling to settle a contract with care givers that met their need for affordable health care, a living wage, an end to subcontracting of their services and a real decision making role in improving patient care.
During the last two years hospital management procured the services of three law firms and a human resources consulting firm to persuade caregivers to vote against unionization. Unfair labor practice charges were filed against the hospital which resulted in the hospital being required to post an official government notice promising not to interfere with caregivers' rights, such as engaging in union activity and talking about the union at work, and promising not to engage in more than twenty illegal activities. Hospital management has continued to put out misleading information regarding SEIU as a labor union. None of the claims raised by hospital management regarding SEIU, care givers who support their union, or organizers have been substantiated by actual complaints to the National Labor Relations Board.
Financially, the hospital is incredibly sound and has continued to make profit margins well above the national average. Instead of investing patient care dollars in health care workforce improvements over the past two years they have continued to hire attorneys and consultants to fight with their care givers, including hiring a consultant to undermine the Nurses union if that contract had not settled.
Unfortunately, under federal law there are no strong penalties for such behavior and no restriction on the amount of money a non-profit hospital can spend on efforts to limit their caregiver's voice on the job.
St. Charles Health Systems is under investigation by several state and federal government agencies. There are several unfair labor practices still pending with the National Labor Relations Board regarding their previous behavior, pending wage and hour violations, and a civil rights issue with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries that are still under investigation. The union may seek civil damages under current Oregon statues. Unfortunately both BOLI and the NLRB, move very slowly in addressing workers concerns and there is no firm timeline when all the outstanding issues will be addressed.
If today's vote stands, workers at the hospital will no longer be represented by SEIU Local 49 and will have lost a formal voice in improving patient care. Workers at St. Charles however, will not stop being advocates for their patients and their community.