CPH votes no on union

Posted: Friday, October 16, 2009

By a hefty margin, workers at Central Peninsula Hospital rejected a proposal to unionize in voting at the hospital Thursday.

The final vote was 130 against, 40 for. Another 19 ballots were challenged, not nearly enough to affect the outcome.

"Well, we're disappointed, of course," said Stacey Allen, a union organizer and registered nurse. "But that's the way the vote went. We hope things still go well here (between employees and management)."

Hospital chief Ryan Smith said he was pleased with the results and hopes the hospital community can mend wounds and resume some normalcy.

"I think it's a vote of confidence," Smith said. "This has always been a great community hospital and we think we can continue that way."

The bargaining unit, backed by Laborers' Local 341 in Anchorage, would have included clerical staff, health information management, admissions, housekeeping, food service, certified nurses' assistants, dietary, materials management and certain positions within the information technology department.

Voting took place throughout Thursday and ended at 8 p.m. An official from the National Labor Relations Board was present through the day to certify the procedure and count the votes.

With the ballots tallied, there is now a seven-day waiting period in which the union can contest the outcome. Allen said that option will be considered in the coming days.

Union organizing began more than a year ago after Allen said her office was first contacted by a CPH employee by e-mail in the summer of 2008.

She said the initial letter they received listed sexual harassment, discrimination based on national origin and unresponsive management as some of the chief grievances. Later visits with other hospital staff members indicated others had similar complaints, she said.

A vote was planned for the fall of 2008. Balloting was postponed after a former hospital employee entered the building a day after he was fired and fatally shot one supervisor and wounded another in November.

An attempt to hold another vote in March was derailed amid discrepancies over what employees would actually be represented.

The process has had a ripple effect across the hospital community. Through the week, some hospital employees have protested the formation the union, picketing in front of the building during shift changes in the morning and evenings. Union organizers accused the hospital administration of attempting to "bust-up" the movement, including hiring a specialist from Outside.

A hospital spokesperson did confirm a contractor had been hired to "answer questions and help educate the staff."

Dante Petri can be reached at dante.petri@peninsulaclarion.com.

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