Recent weeks have seen the end of two long-simmering contract disputes in the Catholic hospitals, one on each coast. After a year of tense negotiations, Buffalo’s Catholic Health system reached an agreement with workers at three area hospitals. The two sides stated that the agreement represented a sound basis to deliver quality care and retain good employees, and anticipated more positive labor relations going forward. “We’re proud to have come to an agreement that will promote patient care, offers the wages to retain staff and maintains important healthcare benefits,” said Dennis Trainor, Vice President of Communications Workers of America District 1. “I want to thank the bargaining teams for their extraordinary efforts and commitment to work through the complex issues we face in healthcare and find a positive way forward,” said Joe McDonald, President & CEO of Catholic Health. “We are committed to forging a new relationship with the union, built on mutual goals that reward and recognize our dedicated associates.”
Meanwhile, on the West Coast, in July Providence Health and Services and St. Joseph Health merged to form a huge health care system stretching from Southern California to Alaska: Providence St. Joseph. Providence has long been known for good labor relations and fair treatment of workers; St Joseph, not so much. Which management style will characterize the new system? A positive sign: within weeks of the merger, Providence St. Joseph and the California Nurses Association settled a long-running contract dispute that had embroiled four former St. Joseph hospitals.
Unfortunately, it seems the spirit of teamwork hasn’t reached St. Jude hospital in Fullerton. When nurses there sought to form a union, the hospital hired a “union avoidance” consultant and used heavy-handed tactics to fight the organizing campaign. They are facing unfair labor practice charges before the NLRB for surveillance and intimidation of union supporters.