City clinic could be union­ized next week

Chase Brex­ton could ob­ject to 87-9 vote by em­ploy­ees who cited work­load, fir­ings

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By Scott Dance sdance@balt­ twit­­dance

A vote by Chase Brex­ton Health Care work­ers to union­ize will be­come of­fi­cial next week un­less the clinic’s lead­ers raise con­cerns about the elec­tion be­fore then, the Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Board said Fri­day.

The em­ploy­ees, ex­press­ing con­cern over what they said are long work­days, heavy pa­tient loads and lim­ited train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, voted 87-9 Thurs­day to join the 1199 SEIU United Health­care Work­ers East la­bor union.

Chase Brex­ton lead­ers op­posed the union­iza­tion ef­fort and sought to de­lay the elec­tion, ac­cus­ing some of their man­agers of en­cour­ag­ing sub­or­di­nates to vote in fa­vor of join­ing the union. The la­bor board re­jected a mo­tion that could have blocked the vote, a spokes­woman said.

The health sys­tem, which has tra­di­tion­ally served gay men but is ex­pand­ing its lo­cal pres­ence as more peo­ple be­come in­sured un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act, has seven days to file ob­jec­tions to the elec­tion. Any ob­jec­tion would have to be di­rectly re­lated to the vote or tal­ly­ing of bal­lots, la­bor board of­fi­cials said.

If no ob­jec­tions are filed, the elec­tion would be cer­ti­fied. The cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process does not in­volve a re­view of the vote. Fif­teen bal­lots cast were chal­lenged and not counted Thurs­day.

Brian Owens, a lead SEIU or­ga­nizer, said Fri­day he was not aware of any is­sues that Chase Brex­ton might raise. He said he ex­pects the health sys­tem to file any ob­jec­tions next week.

“We felt like it went very smoothly,” Owens said. “Peo­ple who wanted to vote had no prob­lems.”

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for Chase Brex­ton did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

The vote capped a con­tentious sev­eral weeks for Chase Brex­ton, which moved to a new clinic in the old Mon­u­ment Life Build­ing in Mount Ver­non in 2013 and also op­er­ates clin­ics in Glen Burnie, Columbia, Ran­dall­stown, Eas­ton and at the Mary­land In­sti­tute Col­lege of Art.

Ef­forts to union­ize 140 Chase Brex­ton em­ploy­ees ramped up this month, with union of­fi­cials and clinic ex­ec­u­tives ac­cus­ing each other of us­ing scare tac­tics and un­fair la­bor prac­tices.

Pro­po­nents of union­iz­ing said it would give them more of a say in de­ci­sions that af­fect pa­tient care, which they said has suf­fered as work­loads have in­creased and work­days have length­ened. Chase Brex­ton man­age­ment said work­ers did not need a third party to rep­re­sent them and that the or­ga­ni­za­tion would be stronger with­out a union.

Amid the cam­paign, Chase Brex­ton fired five em­ploy­ees, spark­ing a protest of more than 100 peo­ple out­side the Mount Ver­non clinic Aug. 19. Fif­teen state law­mak­ers wrote a let­ter to Chase Brex­ton lead­ers ex­press­ing con­cern about the fir­ings.

In re­sponse to the union­iz­ing ef­fort, Chase Brex­ton ex­ec­u­tives told em­ploy­ees they would work with them to ad­dress their con­cerns. Chase Brex­ton ap­pointed a new pres­i­dent of oper­a­tions and pledged to es­tab­lish a com­mit­tee that would look at work­place is­sues.

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