Unions are a BIG Business

Have you seen these headlines recently? The story has reached across the nation:

Labor Arbitrator Penalizes Hospital–Hartford Courant

Union’s Award May Discourage Employer’s Use of Arbitration–Wall Street Journal

Arbiter says Yale Hospital owes Unions $4.5 million–Newsday

Arbitrator slaps hospital with $4.5 million penalty–New Haven Register

The story in a nutshell: Margaret Kern, an independent arbitrator has ordered Yale-New Haven Hospital to pay $4.5 million to the SEIU because, “the hospital ruined any chance for a fair election by intimidating union supporters and spreading misinformation.”

The secret ballot election that had been scheduled for last December was called off by the SEIU as the union filed charges stating that the hospital had violated the terms of a fair election agreement created by both sides.

What can we learn from this story: dig a little deeper beneath the surface…

This is really about a vicious corporate campaign waged by the SEIU, specifically the New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199, against Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut. The SEIU wants the 1,800 health care workers.

The corporate campaign. –Do anything to block the construction of a $430 million state-of-the-art cancer center at Yale-New Haven until employees are union members. The proposed cancer center that would rival competitors such as the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

The cave-in that eventually led to bigger problems. –(insert SEIU spin here)—In yet another historic partnership with a large hospital system, the SEIU and Yale-New Haven agreed to move forward with an election campaign that would spell out codes of conduct for the two parties. Note: this agreement took several years to reach and construction began on the new Cancer Center…

The election. — Set for December, 2006. Management consultants continue to assist with the campaign.

The disaster. — The SEIU bristles at the campaign against them, feels that the codes of conduct have been violated, files ULP (Unfair Labor Practices) charges, blocks or calls off the election and, wrong or right, the independent arbitrator ruled against the hospital with a huge financial penalty.

The money. — If you forget everything else about this story, remember this part. Unions are a BIG business and they are coming after you. It may not make any sense and nobody said that unions were smart or are any good at running a business… The SEIU spent $2.3 MILLION dollars trying to organize Yale-New Haven and the hospital spent $2.2 million with management consultants defending its 1,800 employees in the battle to remain union-free. We know this now because the independent arbitrator based her $4.5 million dollar award to the SEIU on these two amounts.

Last word. — It actually comes from the SEIU. Claiming that the majority of the Yale-New Haven employees had signed cards indicating that they wanted a union, they asked the arbitrator to force (card-check) Yale-New Haven to recognize the union (without that pesky secret-ballot election). She denied the request. A union spokesman says, “The SEIU has no plans to pursue another election but is currently exploring other ideas.”

Now close your eyes and picture the organizer’s meeting room, with the $2.3 million dollar check on the table, and they are throwing a dart at the list of names on the wall of whose employees they will try to “help” against the evil they don’t even know they work for…YOU.

My advice? The obvious: proactively communicate to your employees and train your supervisors on all manner of labor relations at a manageable cost. Start today, unless you’re ready to shell out $6.7 million tomorrow to defend your employees’ right to remain union-free.

About the author

Walter Orechwa

Walter is Projections’ CEO and the founder of UnionProof & A Better Leader. As the creator of Union Proof Certification, Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.