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CLN Catholic health wkrs' struggle in CA draws nat'l press att'n
Source Fred Seavey, SEIU UHW
Date 08/08/21/10:10

IN RECENT days, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times brought national media attention to the aggressive anti-union actions of the St. Joseph Health System, where workers are fighting to unionize with SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West. The St. Joseph Health System, which is run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, is a $3.7 billion corporation that employs more than 10,000 staff in nine hospitals across California .

In July, healthcare workers, religious leaders and community supporters conducted a weeklong series of vigils and actions, which culminated in a thousand-person march to the sister’s Mother House, where workers were joined by numerous religious and civic leaders including Dolores Huerta, Monsignor Eugene Boyle and California Attorney General Jerry Brown. Go to to view a video of the week’s events.

Days later, the National Labor Relations Board announced the results of a four-month investigation at one SJHS hospital. Federal officials charged the hospital with widespread violations of federal labor law involving 18 of the hospital’s managers in 35 separate incidents, including:

· Photographing and videotaping union supporters as they talked to co-workers outside the hospital,

· Interrogating employees about their support for the union,

· Calling the police on union supporters to create the impression that lawful union activities were illegal, and

· Physically blocking employees from handing out their union newsletter to co-workers outside the hospital.

Coverage of these events by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times have brought broad attention to SJHS’s actions. Here are links to some of the recent articles:

New York Times – Theology Finds Its Way Into a Debate Over Unions
Los Angeles Times - Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange not siding with healthcare workers union

Orange County Register - The sisters have remained deaf to the collective voice of their workers

Thus far, leaders of the St. Joseph Health System continue to refuse workers’ request to sit down and negotiate fair, enforceable ground rules for secret-ballot union elections to ensure that workers can make a choice about unionization without interference from their supervisors, managers and anti-union consultants. This approach, which follows the recommendations of a USCCB working paper entitled “ A Fair and Just Workplace: Principles and Practices for Catholic Health Care,” has already been adopted by many of California’s largest hospital companies, including Catholic Healthcare West, Kaiser Permanente, HCA and Tenet Healthcare. Workers simply request that SJHS adopt this same, sensible approach in order to ensure a free and fair union election process. Last week, workers delivered 6,000 postcards signed by community members calling on the Sisters to adopt this approach.

Fred Seavey

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