Report asserts that Ascension Health hospitals engaged in anti-union activity

At Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo, Mich., managers want the contract changed to a "policy," which would allow it to make unilateral changes whenever it chooses. The hospital continues to insist on unilateral control over an array of terms and conditions of employment that have been collectively bargained for decades, and the right to directly deal with the members, bypassing the union. These are among the many examples of workers rights abuses and anti-union activity documented in Ascension Health: A Fall From Grace, a report recently released by Interfaith Workers Justice, a national religious organization based in Chicago.

The report, which examined management/worker relations at three Ascension hospitals, is based on a religious fact-finding delegation that included several nuns and priests who met with hospital workers to hear their concerns. It report describes problems workers have encountered and a pattern of anti-union behavior among managers at the hospitals.

The report found that the three hospitals are engaging in comprehensive, coordinated anti-union activities aimed, at best, to dramatically diminish the working conditions and living standards of Ascension's highly dedicated, unionized Michigan workforce; and, at worst, to break the unions, altogether. "In either case, Ascension is clearly failing to abide by Catholic social teachings on the rights of worker," the report said.

Ascension Health is the largest Catholic health system in the United States.

Borgess has used a campaign of fear and intimidation while interfering with the rights of nurses to be represented by their union, the report states. Nurses reported that managers have interrogated employees regarding their support for the union, videotaped and monitored employees engaged in union activity, and have threated to impose economic penalties if employees reject management's demands to eliminate many protections regarding conditions of employment.

After nurses filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), citing 32 violations of the federal law, the NLRB conducted an investigation and issued a complaint against Borgess on July 12, alleging that the hospital violated federal labor laws on multiple counts, including illegally restraining and coercing employees, unlawfully discriminating against employees in the terms and conditions of employment, and refusing to bargain in good faith with the Michigan Nurses Association. 

At Genesys Regional Medical Center in Grand Blanc, management wanted to dramatically decrease employee benefits by about 75 percent. Some employees stand to lose up to $800,000 in retirement benefits over their lifetime, the report says. Genesys changed many job responsibilities for its licensed practical nurses and implemented new human resource policies without first negotiating with the union. The NLRB is investigating charges filed by the local union against Genesys.

At the Detroit-area St. John Health System, workers received materials from hospital management warning against joining a union.

To learn more:
- read the report
- check out this Kalamazoo Gazette article

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