Hospital sues union over 'robo-call' harassment

King's Daughters Medical Center in Ashland, Ky., filed a federal lawsuit against a workers union for allegedly using a robo-call system to harass KDMC CEO Fred Jackson and other employees, the Daily Independent reports.

KDMC is seeking an injunction to block District 1199 of the Service Employees International Union from using the robo-call system and seeks monetary damages for the union's alleged violation of the federal law that dictates how such automatic dialing systems may be used.

In the lawsuit, the hospital claims that the automated telephone call system plays a recorded message to "incite the person who answers the telephone against KDMC." The message also suggests the person press a number to be connected to the CEO's extension and to speak with him or leave a voicemail.

Quite a few people were connected to the CEO's line. During a 30-hour between Dec. 28 and 29 last week, 536 calls generated by the system went to Jackson's extension. KDMC call logs traced all the calls to a single Ohio-based phone number, believed to be connected to the SEIU, according to the suit. The calls tied up multiple incoming phone lines, including those that support calls to emergency services, security and patient rooms, according to KDMC.

Unless the court stops the robo-calls, they will continue, KDMC claims.

District 1199, which represents 600 hourly workers at the hospital, and King's Daughters have been locked in a contract dispute since the last agreement expired on Nov. 30. Union members voted against the hospital's contract offer last week.

The union objected to a hospital-proposed wage freeze for three years, changes in health insurance coverage that would require workers to pay for out-of-pocket deductibles ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 and the loss of the defined benefit pension plan, a union organizer said.

It's likely KDMC workers are still smarting from hospital-wide staff cuts in 2010 that led to more than 80 layoffs and roughly 50 transitions to part-time.

To learn more:
- read the Daily Independent's story

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