Fair play: In the union drive at UPMC, the rules matter

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Union organizing can be a rough and tumble affair, and Pittsburgh certainly has had a history of labor struggles.

Although it's difficult for outsiders to form an opinion on whether a specific workplace should go union, it's the kind of conflict that makes headlines and grabs attention in a region that was built by so much industry.

That's why some Pittsburghers were concerned Monday when the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that referees union organizing drives, charged UPMC with a list of violations against hospital workers seeking to be represented by the Service Employees International Union.

The charges include illegally firing four workers for union activity, "threatening, interrogating and intimidating employees" for their union efforts, disciplining workers for testifying before the NLRB and implying that the workers would receive poor work evaluations.

UPMC maintains that no labor law violations have been found and plans to defend itself at a Dec. 16 hearing.

Eventually, it will be up to the NLRB to determine if the region's top employer indeed violated the law. Until then, it's in Pittsburgh's best interest that both parties in this battle -- labor and management -- strive to play by the rules.

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