Finally, a ruling in Alta Vista Regional Hospital’s legal challenge to a 121-73 vote held five years ago in favor of a union for hospital employees — and the U.S. Court of Appeals decision is about as damning as they come.
Just read this verbiage in the ruling in reference to “a blizzard of arguments” challenging the vote supervised by the National Labor Relations Board.
“It might be appropriate to suggest that in appellate argument, the proverbial rifle is preferable to a machine gun — but that would assume petitioner had at least a few good arguments; it did not. In truth, it appears to us that all the hospital sought was the inevitable delay that review of order affords. This is regrettable.”
Alta Vista is owned by Community Health Systems Inc. in Tennessee, a rabid anti-union corporation if ever there was one. But in this case, it’s gone far enough. Too far, actually.
We said this five years ago and we’ll say it again: It’s an American right to organize into unions in an attempt to collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions. You may not like it but it’s the law. Does anyone really want to return to the days in which there was no minimum wage, or overtime pay, or child-labor restrictions?
If you think our labor laws have progressed on those matters, then thank the labor movement.
Still, perhaps you think unions have outlived their purpose, that the modern American workplace has outgrown the need for collective bargaining. But as far as Alta Vista is concerned, that’s a moot point.
The hospital’s workers already voted on it, and overwhelmingly chose to have a union represent their interests. That vote, the appeals court has ruled, was won fair and square. Now, it’s the responsibility of Alta Vista and CHS to honor that vote, sit down with the union’s representatives and work in good faith toward a contract that both sides can live with.
Unfortunately, CHS has another option. It can appeal this latest court ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which would probably be an exercise in futility except that the objective would be to drag the issue out further. CHS seems to think that if the union can’t be beat on the merits of the case, then wear ‘em out with an army of litigators.
That’s a legal right that CHS still enjoys, but it’s still wrong. The right thing to do would be for CHS to forego another appeal, sit down and talk with its employees and their representatives. We suspect Alta Vista’s management and its labor force are not that far apart on many matters of concern, if only they could sit down and talk.
Everyone involved, including the hospital’s patients, would benefit from a straight-forward discussion of the issues at hand. In the American workplace, that’s what is known as being reasonable.
Another appeal would only be frivolous and obstructive.