Union vote is likely

R. Scott

Federal officials expect to hold a union vote at Fairview-University Medical Center this month.
The election will cover most former University employees who lost their union status in January when the University Hospital merged with Fairview Health Systems.
Richard Anderson, acting regional director of the National Labor Relations Board, said he expects the agency to issue a ruling this week calling for elections to be held. The report will also specify which employees will be eligible for union representation. An election would then be scheduled to take place within 25 to 30 days.
In that time, either AFSCME or Fairview could appeal the board’s decision. Anderson said any appeal would be unlikely to delay the date of the election. “If we get the report out this week, there should be a vote in April,” Anderson said.
The union drive is being spearheaded by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. Geoff Hahn, the president of the AFSCME unit that formerly represented the University employees, said the union is ready for the vote.
“We would have been ready in January,” he said. “People want their union back. Nobody wanted to lose the union in the first place.”
Hahn cited cuts in wages and benefits taken by many employees during the merger and management efforts to defeat the union as factors favoring a union victory.
Employees report receiving anti-union literature and lectures from their managers. One Fairview pamphlet included calculations of lifetime union dues, citing figures exceeding $10,000 for some younger employees.
“What management’s doing is just making people mad. People don’t think it’s right,” Hahn said.
Fairview officials, as well as AFSCME representatives, said they’ll continue to push to win the union vote.
The board held hearings in late March to determine which types of jobs would be eligible for union representation at Fairview. The board will announce its rulings on bargaining status at the same time it announces the elections.
“We’ll establish the appropriate bargaining units,” Anderson said.
He said Fairview and AFSCME weren’t very far apart on the issue of representation. Anderson said he didn’t foresee any serious challenges to the board’s election ruling.
The former University employees lost their union status because Fairview is a private corporation, governed by different labor laws than public institutions such as the University.
Nearly all of the 1,100 former University employees will be eligible for union representation; AFSCME estimates that about 400 additional Fairview employees will be included in the potential bargaining unit. Federal officials wouldn’t confirm the total number of people to be included in the union vote.
All employees who are eligible for collective bargaining will be able to vote in the union election. A simple majority of those voting will determine whether the workers will be represented by AFSCME or continue to work without a union.