UPMC ordered to reinstate workers who tried to unionize employees
November 17, 2014 12:00 AM
The opinion orders UPMC to put the employees back on the payroll within two weeks.
By Karen Kane / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UPMC says it plans to appeal a legal finding that the health care giant violated federal labor law when it fired four employees who were involved in unionizing activities.
That finding, contained in a 120-page National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge’s opinion, orders UPMC to put the employees back on the payroll within two weeks.
It also ordered UPMC to post a three-page notice informing health system staff that the NLRB “has found that we violated federal labor law” and that the law gives UPMC employees the right to “form, join or assist a union; choose representatives to bargain with [UPMC] on your behalf; act together with other employees for your benefit and protection; choose not to engage in any of these protected activities.”
The posting must include a promise that UPMC won’t engage in surveillance of conversations and meetings between employees and union organizers and it won’t “coercively” interrogate UPMC employees regarding their unionizing activities.
The Service Employees International Union Healthcare Pennsylvania has been trying to unionize more than 3,000 blue-collar workers.
UPMC spokesman Paul Wood issued a statement via email Sunday, saying, “We are disappointed by the Administrative Law Judge’s decision and disagree with his findings. We believe the record fully supported our actions with regard to under-performing employees and failed SEIU organizing efforts in which our employees have shown little to no interest.
“That said, the findings were not unexpected. U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab has previously expressed his concern that the NLRB has become ‘the litigation arm of the union and a co-participant in the ongoing organization effort.’ We will pursue an appeal to the full Labor Board and are exploring other legal options.”
The decision, dated Friday, came from Administrative Law Judge Mark Carissimi, who called some of UPMC’s conduct as demonstrating a “general disregard” for employees’ rights.
Tensions have been high at times between UPMC and some of its employees over wages and unionizing. Protests have been conducted, including one during the spring that snarled Downtown traffic after hundreds of workers converged on UPMC headquarters.
Mayor Bill Peduto asked the protesters to disband and promised to initiate a discussion with UPMC leadership over the unionizing effort. He had asked for both sides to work together. He could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Neal Bisno, president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, said in a statement Sunday: “This is an enormous victory for the brave workers at UPMC who stood up for what was right. The judge’s decision is sweeping and clear: UPMC isn’t above the law.’’
Jim Staus, 53, of Arlington, a UPMC Presbyterian employee for more than seven years until he was fired as a supply technician in July 2013, said he was pleased with the court ruling and is preparing to return to work.
“I’m happy, very happy … . Knowing them, they’ll try to resist this, but I will be preparing myself to go back to work,” he said.
He said that once he returns to work he will continue his effort to unionize workers. “That’s my right. That’s what the judge said,” he said.
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