In its struggle with Alta Vista Regional Hospital, a union has won every single legal battle since the spring of 2007. Last week, that win streak continued.
The National Labor Relations Board, in a June 30 opinion, ordered the private hospital to bargain with District 1199 of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees. The agency has ruled that the hospital had broken federal law by refusing to sit down with labor.
The decision was in response to the union’s filing of an unfair labor practices complaint.
Under the terms of the decision, Alta Vista, owned by Tennessee-based Community Health Systems Inc., must post a notice in its facility declaring that it had violated federal labor law and informing employees of their rights.
Last summer, nearly two-thirds of Alta Vista employees voted for the union, but the hospital filed objections to the election, taking issue with some of the procedures.
The NLRB overruled the objections in March, yet the hospital still refused to negotiate. In May, more than 50 union supporters held a demonstration at Mills Avenue and Seventh Street demanding Alta Vista start negotiations. They later took the protest next to the hospital, even marching onto its grounds for a dramatic few minutes.
“The hospital thinks that if they can delay this as long as possible, the workers will give up and go away,” said Eleanor Chavez, director of District 1199. “The workers remain steadfast in getting union representation at the hospital.”
She said the hospital probably could take the matter to a federal court, “but they’re not going to win.” She said she e-mailed the NLRB’s decision to the hospital when she found out about it Tuesday. The hospital has yet to respond about whether it would start bargaining, she said.
“If they don’t respond to us, we’ll notify the NLRB,” she said.
When asked about the recent ruling, the hospital sent the Optic a statement it had issued to employees Tuesday.
Richard Grogan, Alta Vista’s CEO, told employees in the notice that he wanted to update them on the matter before the NLRB. He refers to the recent decision, but he doesn’t tell employees about what the agency ordered.
“Because of an order recently issued by the NLRB, we now have the opportunity to make a filing in the United States Court of Appeals, which will lead to a court review of the NLRB’s decision,” he stated.
He said in the notice that Alta Vista had “no alternative but to refuse to bargain” with the union because of the processes required to seek a court review.
In its objections to the election, Alta Vista contends that professional and nonprofessional employees should not be in a combined unit. However, NLRB stated that it found no merit in the hospital’s argument because the matter had already been addressed.
The hospital also raised procedural issues, alleging that the election started a minute late and that a few Spanish-speaking employees didn’t understand what they were voting on.
Alta Vista has long maintained that a union would create discord at the hospital and that employees could deal directly with their superiors without a third-party organization.
In the runup to the election, anti-union fliers were posted around the hospital, with one claiming that a union at Community Health Systems’ Deming hospital never got a contract for its workers after more than a decade in existence.
Hospital officials also met with employees in an attempt to convince them to vote against the union.
Community Health Systems purchased the formerly nonprofit hospital in 2000.