City clinic could be unionized next week
Chase Brexton could object to 87-9 vote by employees who cited workload, firings
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.