Chase Brex­ton Health Care em­ploy­ees vote to form a union

Re­sult, yet to be cer­ti­fied, is 87-9 af­ter ac­ri­mo­nious ex­changes over five fir­ings

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By An­drea K. McDaniels am­c­daniels@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/ankwalker

Chase Brex­ton Health Care work­ers trou­bled over what they say are longer work days, heavy pa­tient loads and the elim­i­na­tion of cru­cial staff train­ing pro­grams voted over­whelm­ingly Thurs­day to form a union.

The fi­nal vote was 87-9 af­ter 15 votes were chal­lenged and not counted, ac­cord­ing to lead­ers with 1199 SEIU United Health­care Work­ers East la­bor union. The vote still needs to be cer­ti­fied by the Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Board.

The lead­er­ship at Chase Brex­ton, which op­posed the union­iza­tion ef­fort, de­clined to com­ment Thurs­day, say­ing it would put out a state­ment to­day.

“I think the work­ers at Chase Brex­ton sent a clear mes­sage that pa­tient care mat­ters and they are will­ing to fight for it,” said Brian Owens, a lead SEIU or­ga­nizer.

Some Chase Brex­ton em­ploy­ees sought to form a union to have more say in the de­ci­sion-mak­ing that af­fects their work­place. They com­plained about a rapid in­crease in the num­ber of pa­tients they treat and what they de­scribe as a de­cline in the qual­ity of care as they spend less time with pa­tients.

Donna Yaffe, a psy­chol­o­gist and be­hav- io­ral medicine lead clin­i­cian who has worked at Chase Brex­ton for more than eight years, voted yes be­cause she wants to see worker con­di­tions im­prove.

“I voted for the union be­cause there has been a his­tory over the last three years of providers’ in­abil­ity to have a say in the de­ci­sion-mak­ing at Chase Brex­ton, and that has ad­versely af­fected staff well­ness and pa­tient care,” Yaffe said.

The or­ga­niz­ing ef­forts have cre­ated a con­tentious en­vi­ron­ment at the Bal­ti­more-based chain of health care cen­ters. Man­age­ment and pro-union em­ploy­ees have ac­cused each other of en­gag­ing in un­fair la­bor prac­tices and us­ing scare tac­tics to get em­ploy­ees to sup­port or op­pose the union.

The board of di­rec­tors at Chase Brex­ton Health Care asked the Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Board ear­lier this week to post­pone the vote and ac­cused some of its own man­agers of en­cour­ag­ing for­ma­tion of the union with the help of union lead­ers. This came a week af­ter the SEIU, in a sep­a­rate com­plaint with the NLRB, ac­cused Chase Brex­ton of fir­ing five man­agers to in­tim­i­date em­ploy­ees think­ing of union­iz­ing.

Ex­ec­u­tives at Chase Brex­ton con­tend that the or­ga­ni­za­tion can work with em­ploy­ees to ad­dress their con­cerns. Chase Brex­ton also ap­pointed a pres­i­dent of oper­a­tions and said it will form a com­mit­tee of board mem­bers, em­ploy­ees and providers to look at work­place is­sues.

Mar­i­jke Sut­ter, a med­i­ca­tion ad­her­ence nurse who has worked at Chase Brex­ton for six years, said she ap­pre­ci­ated the out­reach ef­forts ex­ec­u­tives have made in the last week, in­clud­ing a visit by the board chair.

In the end, how­ever, Sut­ter voted to form the union be­cause she felt it would give em­ploy­ees a larger voice.

“Where has the board pres­i­dent been for the last four years?” she asked.

“It re­mains to be seen in the fu­ture if this out­reach will last when the vote is over,” Sut­ter added. “Was this out­reach to sway the union vote or was it gen­uine?”

Chase Brex­ton opened in 1978 as a clinic for gay men. It has seen an in­flux of new pa­tients un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act, which put more peo­ple on the in­surance rolls. It moved its head­quar­ters to the Mon­u­men­tal Life Build­ing on Charles Street in 2013 and re­cently ex­panded its Glen Burnie lo­ca­tion. It also has of­fices in Columbia, Ran­dall­stown, Eas­ton and at the Mary­land In­sti­tute Col­lege of Art.

While it is known for ca­ter­ing to the les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der com­mu­nity, Chase Brex­ton has been try­ing to po­si­tion it­self as a clinic that serves ev­ery­one. It served nearly 10,000 Med­i­caid re­cip­i­ents last year, ac­cord­ing to the state health depart­ment.

The la­bor dis­pute re­sulted in a protest at the health cen­ter head­quar­ters last week. It also prompted an on­line pe­ti­tion on change.org de­mand­ing that the fired work­ers be re­in­stated and Chase Brex­ton stop in­ter­fer­ing with union or­ga­niz­ing.

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