Arbitrator Orders Yale-New Haven To Pay $4.5M

by Melissa Bailey | October 23, 2007 6:24 PM | | Comments (15)

A long-awaited arbitrator’s ruling on the Yale-New Haven Hospital labor dispute slaps the hospital with a $4.5 million fine — including $2.2 million to be distributed among voting employees — while rejecting the union’s call to bypass a secret ballot election.

Both sides claimed vindication in the ruling, issued Tuesday by Margaret M. Kern, a neutral arbitrator chosen jointly by the hospital and District 1199 of the Service Employees International Union to adjudicate disputes leading up to the aborted union election scheduled for last December.

The union, which has long been trying to organize the hospital’s 1,800 blue-collar workers, praised the hefty fine.

The hospital, which had threatened not to acknowledge the arbitrator’s conclusions because she had exceeded an agreed-upon deadline, instead celebrated the ruling because the arbitrator did not sustain the union’s request for a bargaining order.

Click here to read the 47-page ruling.

In the ruling, Kern concluded that “the employer’s conduct here was a methodical dismantling of the terms and commitments of the election principles agreement,” the hard-fought agreement brokered by Mayor John DeStefano between the city, hospital and union. She details various ways in which the hospital undermined workers’ chances at having a fair election.

Fine Slapped

SEIU spokesman Bill Meyerson heralded the ruling for its “unprecedented monetary damages”: Kern ordered the hospital to reimburse the union in the amount of $2,297,676 for the money the union spent in organizing efforts, only to have the election called off because the hospital had broken federal labor laws.

Hospital Spokesman Vin Petrini said the hospital would review and possibly challenge that fine, which he said included a half-million dollars the union spent on a negative ad campaign that violated rules laid out by the elections principals agreement.

Kern also ordered the hospital to pay another $2,225,131 to eligible voters, a sum equal to the money it spent on anti-union consultants, in violation of the election principals agreement. That means each employee eligible to vote in the union election, even those who spoke out against the union, will get almost $1,300 each in cash.

Is it full compensation? Not quite, said Meyerson. “Full compensation would be winning the process by which workers would have the right to freely and fairly choose to unionize.”

No Card Check Neutrality

To the union’s disappointment and hospital’s glee, Kern declined to approve the union’s request for a bargaining order that would have ordered the hospital to recognize the union based on a card count. Kern agreed that a majority of the 1,736 eligible members had signed union authorization cards, but she said she did not have the authority to issue a bargaining order.

Petrini praised Kern’s conclusion that there was no basis for card-check neutrality. While the union withdrew its petition for an election as a result of the hospital’s anti-union activity, the hospital in a rare move has petitioned for a new election on behalf of its workers through the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB will rule on the possible new election after the hospital finishes complying with a 60-day posting period it was ordered to undertake for allegedly violating labor laws.

“At the end of the day, we’re pleased that our employees will potentially vote on this,” said Petrini. “Hopefully this will close the book on these issues, and put it behind us so our employees can” decide their own future through a new, secret-ballot election.

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Posted by: Jack Evan | October 23, 2007 7:37 PM

Holy Christ! Those are some hefty dollars they are throwing around there. $2.3 million to organize a hospital into a union? $2.2 million in anti-union consultants? Why was this money needed either way just to ask employees if they wanted a union? And we wonder why health care is so expensive!

Posted by: Esbe [TypeKey Profile Page] | October 23, 2007 10:36 PM

The decision seems perfect to me. The hospital violated their agreement in a really blatant and cynical way. $4 million certainly says "serious mess up." The publicity should help the union, which is good.

But I am still a sucker for secret ballot elections. I hope the union decides to take the money and then fights hard in a real election, not a "card-count" sham.

Posted by: FairHavenRes | October 23, 2007 11:23 PM

The workers of Yale New Haven Hospital will have yet another opportunity to decide for themselves, whether to unionize or to continue under the present circumstances of trickery and thuggery of the Yale New Haven Hospital.

My family benefited from my parents' union participation. They were active in their unions and struggled hard at creating a work place where they were respected.

Given management's thoughts about overhead, I personally can not for the life of me why anyone would not want to unionize today. Unlike automakers and other industry who threaten to pick up and move, the hospital is here to stay. The unionized work force will have the collective power to help Yale New Haven Hospital be better managers.

I also believe the unionization of the blue collar workers will benefit the whole city.

Posted by: josh jones | October 23, 2007 11:29 PM

4 million. That's 150 to 200 big time proceedures. That much people will die cos Stefano waste everybody money get union in.

Posted by: kris | October 24, 2007 11:14 AM

Why did it take 11 months for the arbitrator to say she has no authority to issue a bargaining order? Why didnt she just tell the union that when they asked her to issue one last year?The union reps have been telling employees that she was without a doubt going to issue a bargaining order,well werent they wrong!The bottom line here is that the union asked for one thing and one thing only,a bargaining order and they didnt get it. They lost the battle. Even after the hospital pays 4.5 million we will still be a non union hospital and thats all we ever wanted in the first place.When December rolls around and the NLRB tells us we can have a vote the union will AGAIN back out of a fair election and think of some other way to try and get into Yale.So to the union,give it up now because you are never going to get in. (but thanks for all the free pizza.)Congratulations to Yale and their employees,we won!Oh and the best part about the 2.2 million that the 1800 people are going get is that not a dime is going to union dues.Also,to the 1800 employees I want you to know that the money will be divided equally,It doesnt matter if you were going to vote yes or no and it doesnt matter if you didnt sign a union card.Please do not be fooled by the union when they tell you that you have to sign a card in order to collect your share!!Its a lie. DONT SIGN A CARD.

Posted by: Paul | October 24, 2007 4:50 PM

Kris, you might want to read the arbitrator's whole report, and how it talks about how Marna Borgstrom's campaign has completely poisoned the hospital, making anything resembling a "fair" election impossible. "Fair" isn't feasible when all the threats have already been handed out.
What this judgment really proves is that American workers have lost the right to organize utterly. The fact that an independent arbitrator can hand out a punishment to YNHH that is far, far more severe than any remedy the government has for this kind of breach of law and rights is really damning of how bad the NLRA has become. Labor law in the US needs to be fixed and it needs to be fixed yesterday.

Posted by: Southeast | October 24, 2007 8:02 PM

What a scam - this arbitrator must be one shrewd left winger - she orders payments to the employees? For what? She knows she has no authority to force a union down the throats of workers who don't want one - all hell would have broke loose if she had. So she just shakes down the Hospital for money and puts YNHH in the position of challenging a money grant to its workers. The union and the arbitrator complained that the hospital was keeping a running tally on workers who supported/opposed the union? What, pray tell, is wrong with that? The UNION DOES THAT - how do you think they run an organizing campaign? - their organizers and supporters on the inside of YNHH keep a running tally on the number of pro union supporters. But they can do that and YNHH can't? Give me a break. 1199 in this case could never have won an election for the simple reason that the workers DO NOT WANT THEM, their corruption and their hands in the workers' pocket in the form of compulsory (and ever increasing) dues. YNHH should take Kern to court and tie up this predatory bunch of communists for the next five years.

Posted by: Steve Koch, PRO UNION | October 24, 2007 10:48 PM

Kris, have you ever read an entire collective bargaining agreement? This anti-union diatribe is a disturbing read. Captive audience managerial tactics were an egregious violation of the agreement.

In any case, this award is not about money. It is about power. Do you think the YNH Hospital executives care about 4 million dollars? They are chuckling in the penthouse while you labor your life away without even the chance for collective job security, pension, longevity, safety, general schedule (GS) compensation and grievance mechanisms. Free pizza? Enjoy your $1,300 in cash now; you will certainly never see an annual increment like that next year or any year thereafter without a unionized hospital.

Posted by: Ann | October 25, 2007 6:05 AM

That 2 plus million that YNHH is told to pay the union is nothing compared to what the union spent over a 9 plus year period trying and organize YNHH. And lets not forget the money they spent came from their member's union dues. What about all the money that they are losing by not having those 1800 employees as their members? Probably over $70,000 a month x 12 months. You know what the union should do? Divide that money that was awarded to them between all the kitchen workers because they kept them hanging for all those months without a contract. A lot of the time these union reps spent at the Hospital anyway was spent talking to the kitchen workers about their contract. So if YNHH has to give 1199 that money, then it's only fair that 1199 pays the kitchen people money too.

A lot of people are being told that the union got those 1,800 employees the award money that YNHH is ordered to pay the barganing unit employees. THAT IS JUST ANOTHER LIE. It was awarded by an independent Arbitrator. And those employees need to know that they do not need to sign anything from the union to receive that award. DON'T BE FOOLED INTO SIGNING A UNION CARD.

The cancer center is being built, 1800 YNHH employees are not victims of a bargaining order, employees get to keep their whole paycheck; and the best part of this whole mess is, THOSE YNHH EMPLOYEES HAVE NOT LOST THEIR RIGHT TO VOTE.

Thank you YNHH for not caving into those money hungry SEIU monsters. A VICTORY won for the employees of YNHH.

Posted by: Tomswife | October 25, 2007 6:54 AM

I don't understand how people can say that a union (especially SEIU 1199) can benefit employees.

Take the unionized in YNHH's kitchen for example. They negotiated a contract to bring those organized workers up to the pay scale of hospital employees (nonunionized), got them the same benefits package and then take dues out of their paychecks. $$$$$ HELLO???? That still puts the kichen people behind hospital nonunionized workers. The kitchen people could have had more $$ in their paycheck without the union.

I am not against unions. I am against unions that make people think they are too stupid to represent themselves.

The union should give the kitchen workers some of their money that they will get from Yale. Highway robbery maybe 1199??? 1199 is so into giving back to the community. Right?

Posted by: nfjanette [TypeKey Profile Page] | October 25, 2007 12:47 PM

Kris, you might want to read the arbitrator's whole report, and how it talks about how Marna Borgstrom's campaign has completely poisoned the hospital, making anything resembling a "fair" election impossible. "Fair" isn't feasible when all the threats have already been handed out.

The captive meetings were inappropriate and might have even worked against the hospital management - they may have been better off taking the "high ground". But wouldn't a fair and balanced statement include the facts - as reported by myself and others personally in previous reports on NHI - that the union had representatives literally on every other corner badgering almost anyone that walked past?

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] | October 25, 2007 5:46 PM

The facts are, YNHH consistently and methodically lied to almost everyone involved in this process. They lied to ministers, politicians and the community. They consistently lied to the arbitrator, they apparently lied to their own governing board(Opinion New Haven Register 12/17/06). If we are to believe the arbitrator and our own government, they vigorously and consistently lied to their own employees about Unions. In spite of all that, the neutral arbitrators decision states a majority of the workers signed cards for a union. Everyone is entitled to their opinion,the goal all along has been to let the workforce fairly and freely make a decision.
What the hospital said about the 1199/SEIU has now been repeatedly proven to be false.
That institution is ostensibly a not for profit tax exempt institution whose sole purpose is to serve the public good.
Whether or not you care about unions at all, we should all be outraged that YNHH thinks their behavior is appropriate.

Posted by: In the Hood | October 25, 2007 10:44 PM

I have already said in the past and will repeat today that until Yale-New Haven and the Union get together and figure out how to improve medical care and service to patients the hospital and it's employees will always be considered a second rate hospital when compared to the compassion and service that St. Raphael provides.

Do a quick survey of Yale-New Haven's service employees and ask them if they get sick where would they rather go: Yale or St. Raphael? You might (or maybe not) be surprised.

Posted by: kris | October 26, 2007 12:46 PM

in the hood, you call ynhh a second rate hospital compared to st. raphs? Sorry honey but remember you cant even walk into st. raphs unless you have health insurance.Why dont you find out how many uninsured patients st. raphs takes compared to yale.Yale is the one taking care of the uninsured the homeless the illegals and so on.And you should remember its yale that donates tons of money to this city not the nuns from holy rollin st.raphs.Also about your suevey,I being one of yales service employees would go to yale for care NOT st raphs.

Posted by: Ann | October 27, 2007 9:06 AM

In The Hood: It's all about patient care!! If those service workers would go anywhere else but where they work, then that's saying they are not doing their job. A Union isn't going to keep it for them. Maybe they need to start doing their job to the best of there ability or get another one. Service workers are just as important as anyone else at YNHH.

For the record, some of St. Raphael's jobs are outsourced and some of their employees are unionized.

Wasn't YNHH rated 10th of best hospitals in the country? Isn't YNHH getting a world renown cancer center? Oh and another point to ponder, when a hospital isn't equipt to care for a patient, where do they Life Star them to? Yale New Haven Hospital....Because most are committed to patient care.

Let's not forget about our children's hospital. When a child is born in another hospital and they are not equipt to keep that child alive, where does that child go? To YNH's Children Hospital.

Don't insult the ability of our staff.

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