Union continues merger resistance

by Lynne Kozarek

A rally at the Diehl Hall plaza was fraught with anger and concern Tuesday afternoon when hospital union employees gathered to protest the Fairview-University Hospital merger.
About 80 American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and other hospital workers attended the rally, said AFSCME representative and rally organizer Ruth Bettendorf. The rally was intended to bring key issues, such as union employment, an alleged medical monopoly and AFSCME’s involvement in the merger, into the public eye, Bettendorf said.
“We are the only university hospital in the country to be sold outright to a private hospital,” Bettendorf said.
Union members are upset because they fear Fairview-Riverside will not recognize or bargain with them as a union after the merger.
Fairview representative Jean Tracy said there are about 11 unions between Fairview and University hospital. She said that after the merger some groups will be represented by one union while other groups will be represented by another or by none at all.
Tracy also said that a decision to choose one all-encompassing union would violate Fairview’s fairness principles.
Going into the merger, Fairview officials set out specific human resource principles, Tracy said. “Fairness for all employees was one of those,” she said.
AFSCME had been promoting Tuesday’s rally for a week and placed an ad in Tuesday’s Minnesota Daily that listed the top ten reasons the regents gave Fairview the University Hospital.
The ad took shots at many in the University community, including University President Nils Hasselmo and District 35B Representative and University Finance Committee chairwoman Becky Kelso.
Kelso was included in the ad as one of the regents who wanted to “bust the unions before they asked for tenure.”
“First of all, I’m not a regent,” Kelso said. “To portray that I have any interest in union-busting is an outrageous mischaracterization.”
Bettendorf said that AFSCME has done all it can to stop the merger from taking place and any further efforts might be in vain.
“We can slow it down,” Bettendorf said, “but we can’t stop it. It’s like walking on marbles at this point.”
Provost of the Academic Health Center Frank Cerra said that AFSCME can’t do anything to stop the merger.”The point that needs to be understood,” Cerra said, “is that if we don’t consummate this relationship [the Fairview-University merger] the University Hospital will close.”
Hasselmo said that the Fairview-University Hospital merger is the only way to keep the facilities of University Hospital in operation, and he questioned the worker protests.
“Some people seem absolutely determined to destroy their jobs,” Hasselmo said. “It could actually be a choice between Fairview jobs and no jobs.”
— Staff Reporter Brian Bakst contributed to this article.