A Feb. 5 National Labor Relations Board hearing into allegations that UPMC has been improperly trying to stymie union organization at the facilities owned by the healthcare giant has been postponed.
Robert Chester, regional director for the NLRB, told City Paper this afternoon that the hearing has been postponed until Feb. 20 so the agency can continue “settlement discussions” with the parties involved.
“We’ve been exploring several settlement offers and the postponement will give us additional time to further explore these settlement discussions,” says Chester, who adds that all parties — UPMC and the employees who have made the individual claims — are involved in the discussions.
When asked if a settlement was preferred to moving ahead with a hearing, Chester said, “It certainly is for us. Our attorneys try very hard to work out principled settlements between all parties.” The task is exacerbated by the sheer volume of the NLRB’s complaint and the large number of employees making allegations.
According to the 30-page complaint filed in December, employees were being unfairly blocked by UPMC, as well as by managers at Magee Women's Hospital, UPMC Presbyterian and UPMC Shadyside. Workers at those facilities began discussing joining the Service Employees International Union in January 2011, but said UPMC management went above and beyond to block their attempts to unionize.
For example, the complaint alleges that UPMC "engaged in surveillance of its employees who were engaged in union activities," "interrogated employees concerning their union activities and/or the union activities of other employees," and "promised employees increased benefits and improved terms and conditions of employment if they refrained from union organizational activity." Another allegation involves a supervisor at Presbyterian Hospital directing employees to "call the police and not let union supporters and organizers into employees' homes." Another claim alleged that employees "were not allowed to solicit for the union at other employees' homes while off-duty."
For its part, UPMC has denied the allegations and, as CP reported this week, even tried to have the charges against it dismissed by claiming that it didn’t actually have any employees. The NLRB denied that motion on Monday.
The full NLRB complaint can be found here.