Friday, January 11, 2008

>500 letters in the mailroom

Our mail room staff called today to say that over 500 letters had arrived from the SEIU to doctors in the hospital. One of the doctors was kind enough to share his with me, a letter from Mike Fadel, Executive Vice President. I'll spare you most of the details, but I will give you a small quote:

"BIDMC's CEO recently has complained that he has been singled out for public criticism on the 'question' of whether hospital workers should be promised that they will not be threatened by executives on the decision of unionizing. Be he has singled out his own institution by essentially promising to fight against BIDMC's own caregivers as if they were adversaries."

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog know that all of the above is not true. You know the high regard and respect I have for our employees, and you know of my personal efforts to improve the work environment at this hospital -- both for their sake and in support of providing better care to our patients. You can also see exactly what I have said about union organizing in general and the tactics of this union in particular.

The union's use of language is carefully chosen. It is meant, first, to isolate me by giving the impression that I am the only hospital CEO in Boston who feels this way. Not so. The others may not say so publicly, but they readily say so privately. (Who knows, perhaps they are wise to do it that way!)

Second, it is meant to try to create divisions between the doctors and the administration of the hospital. Not likely to be effective, either, in that the doctors see quite clearly what tactics are at play here.

A third subtle aspect of the package sent to the doctors is the inclusion of an op-ed from a Jewish newspaper that makes similar accusations and states that I am acting in a manner inconsistent with the "Jewish tradition of social justice." Months ago, I raised a hint as to this tactic as well. Perhaps the SEIU thinks that doctors at a hospital, one of whose antecedents was established by the Jewish community, would be receptive to this argument. Perhaps they don't understand that many people are likely to find it an offensive and mistaken use of religion in support of a political or organizational cause.

Meanwhile, I hear from friends on Beacon Hill that the union persists in complaining about this blog and what I say in it. What I say in it, as all of you know, is out there for the world to see and evaluate. If any of you catch me in a misleading comment or a mistake you can say so immediately and for the rest of the world to see.

Sunshine is the best disinfectant.


Anonymous said...

Good prevails, the truth prevails- intention for good (in a broken healthcare system) will always be challenged under biased scrutiny

Intimidation and fear based logic are the riddles to visionary leadership, this is part of change.

Standing for what you believe in, patiently with courage, is what all great thinkers must do if they hope to move forward.

Beth Israel is lucky to have such a leader


Jay Levitt said...

Ah ha! I knew it! A vast, Bensonhurst-based conspiracy.

Sure, it seemed too obvious to be true at first. Levy... Beth Israel... nudge nudge, wink wink. Oh, but then you tried to hide it with "Deaconess". A little nod to the Christians, a little - dare I say it? - bread for the offering. Or should I say bagel?

But your recent posts on handwashing give you away. Let's just stroll over to Wikipedia. What were the Levites known for in Mosaic times? "Ministering". Hm, sort of like... doctors?

And wait! What is their most common function today? Assisting in - you guessed it - the ritual washing of hands!

Well, you know what they say: "Fool me once, shame on... you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again". First it was the banks and the media. Now hospitals. Next, they'll try electing independent third-party candidates for Senate in some innocent-sounding state like Connecticut.

I'm onto you, Levy.

Paul Levy said...

Very good!!!

Nicolas Bloch said...

I am actually shocked by the language and the tactics this union is using. (I have followed it back to June 2007).

To repeat unproven, absurd and simply false statements, to mix religion and politics, to use a manipulative language has always been a sign for a certain kind of people and groups.

I will not go into details, I will not talk about my personal impressions and experience at BIDMC, I will not discuss its CEO, and the situation and feelings of the employees.
I am not ready to defend the CEO, his background, his work, or the hospital in general against unproven and offensive allegations.

Yet, I feel like defending my hospital, the management, and the employees - in general - against tactics and actions, which discredit BIDMC or its management and harm the reputation of our institution - by politically motivated but incorrect, or misleading, or unproven or indecent public statements and attacks. I take that personal.

I support justified and constructive criticism based on proven facts.
I support discussions about change (improvement not destruction), development in a cultivated and constructive manner; with people who respect certain standards of civilized communication and follow certain principles of proper conduct.
Therefore we should first talk about a moral code and a code of conduct in general to ensure civilized (co-)existence and interactions before we even take a look at a proposed code of conduct to ensure fair union elections.


Nicolas Bloch said...

Hey Levitt, i do not have to go to Wikipedia to know that Levitt and Levy have the same root. Admit it!
Your are from the same tribe!
II see the Golden Calf!

nonlocal MD said...

I am still finding it interesting that the union persists in going after the doctors' sympathies - the doctors, who are NOT involved in this situation. Why aren't they sending their letters to the staff they are trying to unionize - or are they doing that too?
BTW, Paul, the letters one must type in to avoid robots in your comment section are the most numerous and difficult of all the blogs I read. Hard on old eyes!

Paul Levy said...

Sorry, nonlocal. does that automatically, and I can't alter their algorithm.

Jay Levitt said...

@nicolas: I see through your attempt at misdirection! For one thing, I have a doubled consonant, which Paul cannot possibly lay claim to. Most importantly, "Levy" can be pronounced to rhyme with "Levite", while "Levitt" doesn't even come close! Nice try.

(You down with MOT? Yeah, you know me..)

@paul: Actually I've been finding the CAPTCHA annoying too, especially the way it interacts poorly with Blogger login and Preview. Does it really trap that much spam for you? I know you can't change it, but I think you can turn it on/off per blog; I'm sure I've seen blogger blogs that don't have it. But maybe that's an extra-price feature.

@nonlocal: To the extent it has to be there at all, Google's is pretty much the only one that works anymore. There are sites online that sell anti-CAPTCHA software; their success rate on other forms of CAPTCHA are near 100%, while for Google, it's more like 50% (and still much more expensive).

I actually find it much easier to read than those other ones with thin lines through them, but we all have a different vision...

nonlocal MD said...


No problem about the letters, but those robots must be vicious! And my real question was, is the union sending all these letters to your staffers too, or just the doctors? It really puts the docs in a difficult position, since they work with these staffers - but of course, that's right where the union wants them, in a difficult position.

Dave said...

Stand your ground with the union Paul. As CEO of a hospital you have both the right and responsibility to follow your instincts about what is best for patient care. And unionization of hospital workers is not good for patient care. Unions served a purpose decades ago when management oppressed and market forces played no role in health care. Stiff competition for patients now requires workers with flexibility, compassion, commitment to service and ownership in their jobs. Competition for such workers ensures their fair treatment. We are on the verge of a revolution in health care, when the approaches which transformed other service industries will take service and quality to new levels. Unions, on the other hand, stultify. I left a heavily unionized hospital after its leadership caved in to union pressure. Errors increased and staff focusing on patient care rather than union loyalty were intimidated by union strong arms. Patient care suffered. Unions killed the American auto industry, so we turned to foreign cars. We will not have the same luxury if unions choke off innovation in health care.

Anonymous said...

S E I U = Serves Every Imaginable Ugliness

Anonymous said...

You go Paul! Don't let them get to you, your employees are smart enough to see straight through them!

Anonymous said...

in the same manner that ad hominem attacks and fatuous assumptions are made about doctors at BIDMC, the Union bashing going on in the comments is no less unappetizing, the US has TERRIBLE workers rights compared to the rest of the industrialized world, the US rate of Unionization and the hostile environment to Unions in this country are in a very large part, responsible for this. More to the point, US unions have always been hobbled/corrupted/co-opted by the lack of a true union political party, as most European countries have. This is, to some non-trivial extent, because the US is a beta version of democracy, two parties, distorted by slavery, (the electoral college, the 3/5ths rule), the fact that BIDMC management wants to treat workers well for whatever specific local reasons that obtain, is hardly a way to generalize workers rights in this society that has the lowest rate of paid vacation of any industrialized country, including Japan! And of course, a free exchange of ideas is absolutely paramount to a functioning democracy, as is the ability for workers to freely organize themselves.

Jay Levitt said...

Anonymous: You seem to be trying to make a point, but I can't see what it is, other than "We need more unions because they're important". That may be true, but I don't think Paul has discounted that at all. He has very specifically complained about the questionable methods SEIU is using to push their agenda.

Your post doesn't address that. It doesn't even address anything. It states a bunch of general principles, and admits that BIDMC wants to treat its workers well, and closes with an appeal for freedom.

Somehow, I get the idea that this is supposed to make us think that people should support SEIU in their fight against BIDMC. I don't really see how the one follows. Perhaps you could make some sort of argument for your case?

PS - I have no dog in this fight at all; I'm an interested bystander.

Anonymous said...

Paul, With health care costs going through the roof, which is probably one of the main reasons we have so many uninsured, it is beyond comprehension as to how a union of any kind can help the health care challenges in this country L.G.

Patient Dave said...

I'm very disappointed to have received an email today from, an organization I support (and of which I'm a member), touting SEIU as a "progressive" force. Somebody there got hornswoggled, because MoveOn has never (to my knowledge) used anything like the obnoxious tactics that Paul has documented here for more than a year.

I posted a strong recommendation on MoveOn's comments form, urging them to watch out for SEIU:

Be very, very careful about SEIU. I'm a strong progressive myself, very pro-union philosophically, but these people give unions a bad name. They lie, distort, send subversive emails and letters full of half-truths or outright untruths. Creating a strong union movement must not depend on such Bush-like tactics!

I'm quite disappointed to see them showing up in a MoveOn email.

Watch out - they open you to what could be well-documented claims of fraud and deception. That is NOT something MoveOn needs!

And I've just finished writing a detailed email to my like-minded friends urging them to read up and not fall prey.

For those of you who haven't followed this issue here, here are links to past posts.
Aug 2006
Nov 2006
July 2007

This discussion here has drawn national attention. In those threads you can read words from people where SEIU won, and not a single one says their actions have been consistent with their words.

But if you have met or worked with Paul Levy you know him to be a decent, insightful man who's preserved a great institution, saving thousands of jobs and providing much care to the community. And you know that year after year his actions have fulfilled his words.

When you read what they've said about him, you know all you need to know.

As many others have commented on those posts, I personally back unions in cases where an employer commits rampant abuses. That ain't the case here. I'll echo an earlier commenter: why isn't this union going after Wal-Mart employees???

If you're a MoveOn member, please consider submitting your thoughts on their comment form.