East County San Diego’s only hospital recently voted to unionize 1,458 health care workers — but Sharp Grossmont officials are contesting the election’s outcome, pointing to previous claims of alleged intimidation and threatening behavior by the union.
Vote to unionize nursing assistants, pharmacy technicians and other health care workers under SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) ended on February 3 and was 55% in favor of unionization, but those results are pending as the objection process unfolds.
“We just think it’s a silly and ridiculous attempt by Sharp to delay the inevitable,” said Renée Saldaña, spokeswoman for SEIU-UHW. “We’re just ready to move forward with all of this. We know that workers have been laid off and again they’re ready to certify this election.”
Before the unionization vote was completed, Sharp HealthCare officials filed a challenge with federal labor officials alleging intimidation and threatening organizing efforts on behalf of the union. A news release from Jan. 31 said SEIU-UHW organizers followed workers: “Into their homes, visiting homes multiple times day and night, sneaking into employees’ backyards and gated communities, and other tactics disrespectful.”
Saldaña called those claims frivolous and “a desperate, last-minute attempt to sway the election and divert attention from low wages and short staffing,” she said in a statement last week.
KPBS asked Sharp for a copy of their objection letter, but a Sharp spokesperson said only that it is related to their earlier claim of intimidation.
Legal analyst Dan Eaton said it’s not unusual to see opposition to unions from the losing side. Eaton said the process could take months and could end up in the courts.
“The stakes are very high regarding unionization, and that’s why these campaigns are fought so hard,” Eaton said. “The losing side often claims that the victory on the other side was won with coercive tactics and that is why we have these administrative processes and at the end of justice”.
Eaton said that with votes to unionize, objections to intimidation tactics can come from either side, and typically statements from employees are used to try and prove the claims.
A spokesman for the National Labor Relations Board said the objections are being reviewed and a regional director will decide whether to dismiss them or initiate a hearing.
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