Chase Brex­ton board agrees to be­gin col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing

Dead­line to chal­lenge vote passes; union presses its com­plaint about fir­ings

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Mered­ith Cohn mered­ith.cohn@balt­sun.com

Af­ter a vote last week among work­ers at Chase Brex­ton Health Care to form a union, the health care provider’s board of direc­tors said Fri­day that it has voted to ac­cept the out­come and move for­ward with col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing.

“We rec­og­nize the past few weeks have been dif­fi­cult for our or­ga­ni­za­tion and that we have to work to re­build trust with our em­ploy­ees, pa­tients, and com­mu­ni­ties,” Chase Brex­ton said in a state­ment. “We will ful­fill our prom­ise to ad­dress the is­sues and con­cerns that were raised as part of this process so that we be­come a stronger or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

The union now rep­re­sent­ing the com­pany’s em­ploy­ees, 1199 SEIU United Health­care Work­ers East, says it will con­tinue to pur­sue a com­plaint it filed with the Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Board over the fir­ing of five Chase Brex­ton man­agers dur­ing the or­ga­niz­ing cam­paign. The union con­tends that Chase Brex­ton used the fir­ings to in­tim­i­date other em­ploy­ees and dis­suade them from union­iz­ing. Chase Brex­ton de­nied the charge.

The NLRB did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Chase Brex­ton be­gan as a clinic for gay men in the 1970s. Although its lo­cal health cen­ters still cater to the les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der com­mu­nity, it has ex­panded ser­vices to many other pa­tients through the Af­ford­able Care Act. It is head­quar­tered in Bal­ti­more’s Mount Ver­non neigh­bor­hood and has fa­cil­i­ties in Glen Burnie, Columbia, Ran­dall­stown, Eas­ton and at the Mary­land In­sti­tute Col­lege of Art. It served nearly 10,000 Med­i­caid re­cip­i­ents last year, ac­cord­ing to the state health depart­ment.

Chase Brex­ton em­ploy­ees voted 87-9 on Aug. 25 to join the union. Work­ers com­plained of longer work­days, heav­ier work­loads and re­duced train­ing, and said they wanted more say in de­ci­sion mak­ing at Chase Brex­ton.

Be­fore the vote, man­age­ment and prounion em­ploy­ees ac­cused each other of en­gag­ing in un­fair la­bor prac­tices. Chase Brex­ton filed a com­plaint against the union al­leg­ing un­fair la­bor prac­tices and ask­ing the board to block the union­iza­tion vote. The la­bor board re­jected the mo­tion.

Work­ers and their sup­port­ers protested out­side Chase Brex­ton’s head­quar­ters in Bal­ti­more, and state and lo­cal law­mak­ers wrote let­ters in sup­port of the em­ploy­ees. More than 1,600 sup­port­ers signed a pe­ti­tion on Change.org ask­ing Chase Brex­ton CEO Richard Lari­son to re­hire the em­ploy­ees and sup­port union­iza­tion.

Brian Owens, a lead SEIU or­ga­nizer, said he ex­pected con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions to be­gin soon.

“I think it’s good, and it’s what should have hap­pened two months ago,” he said of man­age­ment’s will­ing­ness to bar­gain. “It’s good they rec­og­nize that things need to change. Hope­fully, we can be part­ners with man­age­ment to fix some of the prob­lems at Chase Brex­ton.”

NATE PESCE/BAL­TI­MORE SUN ME­DIA GROUP

Brandt Dirmeyer, 22, of Highland, left, shov­els out some new soil with Howard County mas­ter gar­den­ers Donna La­Belle of Ca­tonsville, right, and Sue Priftis of Lau­rel, in the back­ground. They were part of a vol­un­teer crew from Pat­ap­sco Her­itage Green­way work­ing Fri­day to re­plant and land­scape the El­li­cott City Oella En­trance Gar­den, which was heav­ily dam­aged from the flood­ing in late July.

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