Hospital, union clash over personnel files

by Jessica Steeno

Some members of a University Hospital union who objected to the release of workers’ personnel files to Fairview Hospital said the University administration has repeatedly tried to silence their protests.
Members of the American Federation of State and Municipal Employees said the hospital administration has called police when members have spoken with each other or handed out flyers in University buildings.
Geoff Hahn, president of AFSCME Local 1164, said AFSCME members did not want hospital employees to sign forms that would release personnel records, health records and insurance information to Fairview. The hospital will merge on Jan. 1, 1997, with the University Hospital and Clinic.
The form, which was given to hospital employees Nov. 1, stated that failure to release the requested information would result in a delay of their first paycheck from Fairview.
“The objective was for University employees to be prepared from day one in their new jobs and for payroll to run smoothly,” said Peter Rapp, general director of University Hospital. “We want to make sure (Fairview) human resources has complete files.”
Union representatives protested the forms by handing out informational flyers and asking employees to hold off on signing the forms.
Richard Bear, a member of AFSCME Local 1164, handed out flyers Nov. 6 at a cafeteria in the Mayo Building. Supervisors of a hospital department who were having a meeting in the area asked him to leave.
Bear refused, saying he was in a public place. Both Bear and Hahn said the union’s contract with the University states that members are allowed to distribute literature in public places if they are not working at the time.
Kathy Brown, University associate general counsel, agreed but said employees being solicited must also not be working.
Bear said he did not solicit employees who were involved in the meeting. He said he quietly placed flyers on tables and handed them to other employees as they entered the cafeteria.
After Bear refused to leave the cafeteria, Hospital Protection Services and a University Police officer arrived and spoke to him.
University Police Officer Darryll Stohl said he interviewed Bear and the supervisors who called Hospital Protection and said he saw nothing illegal occurring.
“I’d call it union busting, pure and simple,” said Bear about the hospital administration.
Beth Louden, University Hospital director of Environmental Services, said she called Hospital Protection because Bear disrupted the meeting. She would not comment further about the issue.
Environmental Services supervisors called police again on Nov. 7 when Hahn and another union member were talking in a hallway. Hahn said supervisors told police he was holding an illegal meeting.
University Police Officer Jeff Sworski said Hahn had left by the time he arrived, but that there was nothing illegal about the conversation. He said he told the supervisors to handle it internally, and left.
But University administration said the problems are because of a misunderstanding, and has since specified what information workers need to release.
“There have been some cases of miscommunication the past few days. We’ve sorted out which critical things need to be provided for payroll,” said Terry Bock, special assistant for health sciences special programs.
A letter was released Nov. 7 after AFSCME members met with hospital administration. It stated that employees were not required to release certain personal information and clarified what information was necessary for employees to get paid.