Union Fight at Community Hospitals

3/14/2008 Fresno, CA Union organizers are fighting to get a foothold in Fresno's largest medical center. But the Service Employees International Union claims the hospital group isn't playing fair.

The union says Community Hospitals has interfered with organizing efforts, by intimidating hospital workers who want to join. The union is trying to gain outside support in an effort to pressure the hospital.

A meeting in downtown Fresno brought hospital workers, union supporters and members of the community together to bring attention to the organizing campaign.

Hospital workers like Lydia Martinez claim the medical center has harassed and intimidated those trying to organize. She said workers were required to attend anti-union seminars that spread misinformation. "That the union is bad, yeah that they are not gonna help you. That they are a third party, that, why do you want a third party coming in here."

Community spokesman John Zelezny said the hospital doesn't feel a union is needed. "Generally a good management like ours is going to feel that we can represent our own employees better than a third party."

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) started the effort two years ago. They want to represent some 2,000 hospital workers, medical technicians, licensed vocational nurses, housekeepers and others. They have filed unfair labor practice charges against the hospital with the National Labor Relations Board. But those charges can take years to resolve.

Union supporters feel they have strength in numbers and will soon get what they want. "Oh yes, we will have better luck, there's more of us, we're really united and we're really determined to see this through," said Helen Villa.

Hospital management maintains it's following the law in dealing with union organizing efforts. The SEIU is not the only union fighting the hospital. The California Nurses Association has waged a ten year long battle to restore union status to more than two hundred registered nurses.

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