By Terry Miller
“CNA – NO WAY!” was the repeated chant while officials and nurses from California Nurses Association attempted to speak at a press conference called by the CNA last Thursday morning.
Scores of nurses, community leaders and union officials quarreled outside Huntington Memorial Hospital Thursday over the 10-month attempt to get nurses at Huntington to vote on unionizing.
The confrontations occurred when anti-union employees attempted to quell the voices of the California Nurses Association, which initially called the press conference.
Organizers were upset that the anti-union nurses and ancillary staff essentially rained on their parade.
“I absolutely do not want or need union representation,” Vandy Uphoff, RN, told Pasadena Independent in an email Friday. She added: “Many nurses here, like me, appreciate what a special and unique place this is to work. The claims the CNA are making about our hospital and administration are absolutely false. I have been a bedside nurse at Huntington for 15 years (the last 14 in the Emergency department.) Our administration is very supportive of nurses.
“I have not been coaxed by management or anyone else to oppose the union. I went there yesterday on my own accord to show that they are not speaking for the majority of the nurses at Huntington as they claim. I am frustrated by the media coverage that keeps saying ‘Huntington nurses’ hold union rally … etc. It is a small group of disgruntled employees who have adopted the idea that CNA can solve problems for them. I chose to solve problems with my colleagues and administration in a collaborative, productive way. I do not need the CNA to intervene or interfere.”
Anthony Melendez, a 17-year veteran RN at Huntington, voiced similar feelings: “One thing that is abundantly clear to me is that HMH is a special hospital that was placed more than a hundred years ago in a special community. It is a community, non-profit academic institution that strives to serve this community with the very best in medical care and patient experience.
“I have been a passionate ‘soldier’ in this recurring battle as human healthcare is complex and challenging. However, I have consistently found that HMH is not afraid to adapt and grow and bring RN’s into negotiations concerning its direction and next steps.
“They give me many tools and personnel to do my job. I am not oppressed or fearful of my managers; if fact, I view with them fondness. I don’t fear my administrators; in fact, I have close and friendly relationships with them. I believe they are doing quality work and are trying their very best to keep the mission of quality healthcare working. Every day.
“This is why I am clearly bothered by these ‘outsiders’ attempts to claim ‘a patient care crisis’ and ‘a corrupt management group’ when, in my opinion, the majority of nurses at HMH believe contrary.”
Mr. Melendez also said that he was surprised by some of the elected officials’ attempts to seemingly support the unionization efforts. “Victor Gordo isn’t event in Huntington Hospital’s district…
“Collective bargaining would collapse the already-occurring many arenas of professional nurse collaboration at HMH that has resulted in much fruitful innovation and advancement.
“The RNs I know are motivated by their personal capabilities and their personal enthusiasm and do not want the stifle of a union picking their ‘platforms’ or speaking for them. We can speak for ourselves – There is NO crisis at Huntington.”
Another nurse, Sonya Balingit, RN, said of Councilmember Gordo claiming he supports the nurses at Huntington, “That is only half true . He only supports the nurses that want the union. Myself and several other nurses have written him and asked that he meet with us so that we can give him our opinion. He has never written any of us back or agreed to meet with us. Shame on him….”
She added, “I feel that it took our behavior during the rally to get the attention we deserve. Shame on the media. CNA has come to our units and tried to get nurses to sign cards. They have been in our parking garage to try to talk to us which is not allowed. We are tired of the harassment from them and all the accusations towards our management. We would like to stress that management do listen to us and that we do not need CNA to negotiate for us. We actually are professional and do not need someone to do what we are capable of doing ourselves.”
Victor Gordo and Jacque Robinson, as well as candidate Allen Shay and local clergy, attempted to soothe the tensions. Gordo is currently serving as Secretary-Treasurer and Legal Counsel to Laborer’s International Union North America, LIUNA, which is not officially affiliated with CNA. Robinson, according to her Pasadena City Council website biography, “has worked on community, issue-based and electoral campaigns with the California Teachers Association, Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union, California Federation of Teachers, and the Los Angeles Urban League.”
Eventually, those who oppose the CAN left and the pro-union nurses prayed for a peaceful and fair solution.
A group of nurses at Huntington has been in talks with CNA organizers since May to form a union at the hospital, citing poor work conditions and diminished morale among employees. Since then, the pro-union employees cite intimidation from hospital administrators. The majority of nurses we spoke to on Thursday say that unionization is not the answer and intimidation allegations were “fabricated” by the CAN.
Gloria Sanchez-Rio, VP and Chief Nurse Executive for Huntington, said that the Hospital doesn’t believe union representation is “in our relationship with our employees.”
“The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) notified Huntington Memorial Hospital that the California Nurses Association (CNA) filed a petition to organize our full-time, regular part-time and per diem registered nurses. Eligible nurses will have the opportunity to vote in a secret ballot election conducted by the NLRB to determine whether or not they want union representation. A date has not yet been determined for the election.
“Huntington Hospital acknowledges and respects the right of our employees to voluntarily decide whether or not to be represented by a union like CNA. However, we do not believe a union is necessary in our relationship with employees. We believe that a union would compromise our flexibility and the spirit of cooperation, internal sense of community, and unifying focus on high-quality, compassionate care that we provide to our patients.
“It is essential for Huntington Hospital nurses to have complete, accurate information about what it means to be represented by a union – as well as the risks associated with the collective bargaining process – so they can make an informed decision. Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing information with our employees about what unionization means and the collective bargaining process generally. Meanwhile, our focus, as always, will continue to be delivering the high-quality care our community has relied upon for the past 120 years.”