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RNs Charge Jackson Health System, Service Union Broke State Law in Harassment of Hospital Nurses

Threatened RNs with Arrest for Eating at McDonald's

Nurses Call on County to Halt Questionable Contract

MIAMI, Dec. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- The nation's largest nurses union today charged that Jackson Health System (JHS) and the Service Employees International Union have violated state law that protects employee rights, and is calling on Miami-Dade County Commissioners to postpone a vote Tuesday morning approving a new agreement between the hospital system and SEIU.

Jackson and SEIU, charges the National Nurses Organizing Committee/California Nurses Association, conducted a systematic campaign to threaten and harass JHS nurses and NNOC/CNA representatives to prevent hospital nurses who are alarmed by the deteriorating patient care conditions they see from switching representation to NNOC/CNA.

The campaign even resulted in such tactics as using security guards to pull RNs and NNOC/CNA staff out of public restaurants, including a McDonald's and an Au Bon Pain restaurant near the hospital.

Then, SEIU and JHS signed a hurried agreement and are seeking rapid approval by the Board of Commissioners in an effort to block an election by the RNs. SEIU has sought to curry favor with the board with frequent campaign contributions, including a $50,000 donation to Commissioner Natacha Seijas during her recall campaign in 2006.

The agreement, intended to bar a representation vote, was rushed through, bypassing normal procedures, which first include approval by the Public Health Trust, and then pushed through a vote of the RNs in which fewer than half voted.

NNOC/CNA will file formal charges with the Florida Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) that prohibit public employers and employee organizations from "interfering with, restraining, or coercing public employees" in equal access and discrimination against one union in favor of another.

Yet JHS used security guards to tail and threaten arrest of NNOC/CNA staff, and prevent them with communicating with nurses - while routinely giving carte blanche to SEIU staff. SEIU participated in this campaign, which included harassment of RNs and NNOC/CNA by SEIU Local 1991 President and acting Executive Director Martha Baker, until recently a hospital nurse manager.

JHS RNs contacted NNOC/CNA several months ago seeking to change their affiliation in response to widespread alarm over poor nurse staffing and other eroding care conditions, and disgust with Local 1991's domination by hospital management.

In a related development, NNOC/CNA today also filed a petition to represent some 350 RNs at one JHS facility, Jackson North Medical Center in North Miami Beach. The former Tenet Healthcare facility was recently brought into JHS and SEIU 1991.

SEIU's cozy ties with hospital management and use of campaign contributions is consistent with a national pattern that has generated growing SEIU criticism around the nation. Among SEIU's recent controversies:

  • Links to the corruption scandal involving Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. SEIU is Blagojevich's top campaign contributor, with donations totaling over $1.8 million. Blagojevich helped SEIU by ordering the state to negotiate with SEIU to represent 49,000 in-home child care workers.

  • Corruption charges involving leaders of major SEIU locals in Los Angeles and Michigan. The president of SEIU's largest local was forced to resign after an expose by the Los Angeles Times found the local paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to firms owned by his wife and mother-in-law. Much of the money went to businesses suspended by the state tax board for failing to file tax returns and other public documents.

  • That scandal has also led to the resignation of the head of SEIU's California State Council over alleged financial improprieties involving her and a former boyfriend, and the head of SEIU's largest Michigan local after reports that a nonprofit housing corporation he filed had been suspended for doing business for failing to file tax reports.

  • Federal investigations of election rigging at SEIU locals in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The Las Vegas investigation resulted in preliminary findings by the Department of Labor that included illegal use of SEIU funds to help elect a slate favorable to SEIU International at the expense of local activists promoting greater union democracy.

  • Deals with large corporate chains that undermine worker and public protections in exchange for sweetheart agreements to signup more dues-paying members. Under a pact with California nursing homes, for example, SEIU agreed to lobby against reforms to require better patient care conditions in nursing homes, and to give management the "exclusive right" to set pay, discipline employees, reassign or eliminate jobs, and outsource work.

  • Alliances with controversial large corporate employers such as Wal-Mart which subvert genuine healthcare reform.

  • Silencing dissent of its own members through lawsuits, sham elections, and physical intimidation.

NNOC/CNA is the nation's largest RN union and professional association

with 85,000 members in all 50 states.

SOURCE National Nurses Organizing Committee/California Nurses Association
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