Monday, September 10, 2007

SEIU response

The Boston Globe's White Coat Notes contains the following, after citing my post below:

The union responded this afternoon, saying Levy "continues to parrot the Bush Administration's talking points in the way he mischaracterizes Senator Kennedy's ... bill, which was not the subject of our letter."

"Despite Mr. Levy's attempts to obfuscate what many hospital workers throughout Boston are actually asking for, our message is clear," SEIU executive vice president Mike Fadel said in an e-mail. "Hospital workers across the city are calling for free and fair union secret ballot elections, which include a code of conduct agreed to by employers to ensure their right to vote is not interfered with by hospital management."

This is really something. It appears that the nastiest thing you can say about someone in Massachusetts is that (1) they they may have said something similar to what a Republican administration has said and (2) that they might disagree with our senior Senator. In our overwhelmingly single party state, this is a way of trying to isolate (and watch for this next -- demonize) someone who disagrees with you.

For the record, I have tremendous regard and affection for Senator Kennedy and what he has done for this state, this country, and the world and -- how shall I say this politely? -- much less regard and affection for the Bush administration.

But that is not really the point, is it? These issues ultimately rise or fall on their own merit. As I mentioned below, I have seen no public reports that any person in authority at any of the hospitals in Boston has agreed with the SEIU's proposed code of conduct. Are all the hospital CEOs pseudo-Democrat anti-incumbent apologists for the Republican party? Or are there substantive and legitimate reasons for the lack of traction for the union's proposal in this city? Or perhaps someone has agreed to the code of conduct but has not made it public. If so, now would be a good time to speak up and explain the reasons for your agreement.


Anonymous said...

Wow! I am stunned by the union's repeated use of language referring to the Bush administration, both in its Globe response and in response to one of your earlier posts. Where on earth does that come from? I'm hard pressed to understand the link here with any of the issues raised, save that it seems to be another attempt at all sorts of bizzare subliminal messaging to muddy the waters yet again. A distasteful attack, made in poor grace.

Shame on the SEIU. Wasn't it the same union that was calling for card checks in place of elections just a few months ago? And, if they really do care about free and fair elections, why the push to legislate this process away? Before this whole debacle started here, I didn't care one way or the other about union issues. Now, I'm even more convinced as a patient that I really don't want an organization that resorts to such low tactics to be part of the organization that provides my care. I realize this isn't about patients, and that you'll still have the same caring staff even if it chooses to become unionized. But, I think something would likely change in the fabric of the organization and its culture with an unseamly additional layer as this.

Keep up the good work, Paul. You and your staff at BIDMC have created a really special place. And thank you for taking the time to share some of your insights on this blog.

Anonymous said...

I am increasingly bemused, watching this bizarre war of words unfold. I share patientme's bewilderment as to why the union repeatedly invokes the Bush administration in a completely unrelated matter. Perhaps they are trying to attract Senator Kennedy's public support?

At least it seems that the union is favoring a secret ballot election, perhaps recognizing the card thing won't fly now. We neutral observers in other cities are waiting, Mr. Fadel, for the union to publish ITS code of conduct, rather than trying to dictate the other side's. We may see you next.

As to other city CEO's, I think you can assume, Paul, that they are keeping their mouths shut and letting you do the difficult work for them. They fail to realize they have a horse in this race also. Wake up, gentlemen (and/or ladies).

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the SEIU should target the White House for a union vote. The Bush Administration is a prime example of poor management with a capital P.

An Anonymous Republican

Richard Wittrup said...

I hope you are getting good professional advice on how best to deal with this. You are facing a bare-knuckles political campaign in which your adversaries are pros while you most probably are not.

Anonymous said...

My wife is recognized as a standout RN who has been commuting an hour each way for more than fifteen years to her career at BIDMC. This is an RN who, because of a commitment I can only wonder about, usually puts in an hour MORE than her shift requires. Despite continuous phone and mail recruitment attempts by national nursing groups and by her acquaintances in other area hospitals, she would not even consider leaving BIDMC. When I remind her about commuting time and traffic/parking-related stress, she brushes aside any suggestion to change because of how much she loves the people with whom she works, the challenges she faces given patient acuity, the professional respect paid to nurses by MDs, and the generally positive atmosphere of a medical center that is well run. (It all sounds like a public relations line right out of Paul Levy's office I know, but this is the kind of assessment I have been getting about BIDMC for years, even during the tough times in the late 90s.) At times she tells me she is aware she earns a little less than RNs in other Boston teaching hospitals, but her concern is a minor issue because management seems to be willing to make market adjustments when necessary. Also, she believes a union that practices the tactics of an SEIU might poison the professional atmosphere at BIDMC. Obviously my wife is extremely positive about her career there. How could a union, especially SEIU, add anything beneficial?

Anonymous said...

I am deeply amused that the SEIU is comparing you to Bush given your past employment record. Admit it: all those years you were working for Dukakis, cleaning up Boston Harbor, you were secretly laying the groundwork for Mitt Romney's eventual rise to power in MA.

Oh my god, I think I just started a conspiracy theory! Maybe you shouldn't publish this comment.

Anonymous said...

I find it funny that the SEIU is attacking you for not supporting fair secret ballots and agreeing to a code of conduct. Maybe I just misinterpreted what you wrote in Friday's blog, but I could have sworn you said that you do support free secret ballots and that the Board of Trustees did develop a Code of Conduct policy which you posted.
Oh, wait! I know what the problem is. The Code of Conduct stated that staff could participate in union activity on campus during non shift time and that non medical center individuals would not be allowed on campus to conduct union business.
As one person noted above, why doesn't the SEIU state their Code of Conduct is what they expect an employers Code of Conduct should be.
My wife was a member of the SEIU and she was not at all impressed with them. They took out dues from her paycheck but didn't see any benefit to her investment.
This union is not interested in patient care, they are interested in gaining power. They are so desperate to be relevant that they will stoop to the lowest levels to increase its membership. As a BIDMC, I do not want them here and I don't know anyone else that does either. I certainly hope that the overwhelming majority of employees here feel the same way.

Anonymous said...

You are right on the money Paul! I applaud you for standing up to the unions and for fighting their incessant campaign of misinformation.

Yes, you will be "demonized" for stating the unpopular truth. God forbid someone in this state not agreeing with Kennedy--truly a mortal sin.

I have seen the SEIU strong-arm tactics at other hospitals and how they want to scare people into becoming constituents. A wise man once said that the only thing worse than a lie is a half-truth.

Anonymous said...

Response from 1199SEIU Executive Vice President Mike Fadel

Recently, Beth Israel CEO Paul Levy authored a number of blog posts about our union’s proposal for a Free and Fair election agreement with the BIDMC and other Massachusetts hospitals.

The following is our response:

Boston hospital workers are calling for free and fair union secret ballot elections, which include a code of conduct agreed to by employers to ensure their right to vote is not interfered with by hospital management. Such agreements are increasingly common among hospitals throughout the United States, and have played a role in improving the delivery of care where they have been adopted.
A recent letter sent by 1199SEIU to BIDMC doctors included an article by Allina CEO Richard Pettingill on the benefits he feels a similar fair elections accord has had for Allina, which can be found at .

The recent Op-Ed by Kaiser Permanente’s Mary Anne Thode ( )on improvements in care delivery Kaiser achieved through its more progressive labor relations practices is also worth reading.

The movement for Free and Fair elections is against this backdrop: A great many healthcare workers in Boston cannot afford health insurance for their families and have a hard time paying the rent. Given that hospital jobs account for one out of every six jobs in Boston, there is great public interest in Boston’s caregivers being able to vote, under free and fair conditions for the right to bargain collectively.

In his recent writings, Mr. Levy has asked whether other employers have agreed to free and fair election processes. Yes, they most certainly have.

Here are local hospitals which have entered into election agreements of various types:

· Boston Medical Center: From 1996-1997, BMC workers held two union elections under an election accord. In 2005, another group of workers voted in an election under a new accord, negotiated earlier that year.

· The Trustees of Boston City Hospital in 1993 negotiated a process in which they agreed to recognize the union upon evidence that a majority of workers petitioned for representation.

· Whidden Memorial Hospital: Two elections took place between 2000 and 2002 under a free and fair accord.

· UMass Medical Center in Worcester conducted an election in or about 1999 under an accord.

Elsewhere in the U.S., many health systems have negotiated free and fair election codes of conduct. These systems include:

· Kaiser Permanente: All hospitals and clinics nationally (Kaiser is country’s largest private non profit healthcare provider).

· HCA: Several hospitals in three states (HCA is the largest for profit healthcare corporation in the world).

· Tenet: All California hospitals (Tenet is the second largest for profit system in the U.S.)

· Catholic Healthcare West: All hospitals in its system.

· Allina Health: All hospitals in its system

· Daughters of Charity: All hospitals in its system.

· The NY League of Voluntary Hospitals (representing the overwhelming majority of Hospitals in NYC).

· Many nursing home chains throughout the country.

· Many independent hospitals throughout the country.

For over a year now, Mr. Levy has asserted inaccurately that Massachusetts workers uniting together as part of 1199SEIU are seeking “card check” agreement when, in fact, our letter to BIDMC doctors states clearly, as we have stated many times before, our actual proposal for a free and fair secret ballot election code of conduct.

Here is an excerpt from that letter:

“We have asked for something quite basic: That the management of Boston’s not yet union hospitals agree to a Free and Fair Election Code of Conduct: Free for workers to make up their own minds, under fair secret ballot voting conditions…[Emphasis added].”

The full text can be found at

In his blog, Mr. Levy makes an eloquent case for the necessity of a negotiated free and fair code of conduct, by essentially acknowledging his intention to run an anti-worker/anti-union campaign to sway caregivers’ votes in an election.

· To begin with, Mr. Levy begs the question of whether he intends to fund a campaign against his workers by quibbling in his blog over whether hospital funds he would devote to such a campaign would come from the hospital’s “patient care budget” or some other budget category.

· Mr. Levy continues on by citing the text of a current hospital policy, which he argues to be an adequate code of conduct for union elections, while overlooking the fundamental problem that his policy is an unenforceable and unilateral document.

· The content of the policy itself is damning. It is a roadmap for the type of anti-worker campaigning and rancor that Massachusetts hospital workers are seeking to avoid through a Free and Fair elections accord.
Mr. Levy’s policy document starts by expressing the laudable desire that, “everyone in the work environment remain focused on patient care.” However, the policy then does the opposite: Our union has proposed a code of conduct that would preclude discussions about elections taking place in any patient care areas, and would forbid caregivers being taken from patient care duties. However, the BIDMC policy allows managers to campaign anywhere and anytime on work time to influence caregivers’ votes, and gives managers full reign to take workers away from the bedside in their efforts to do so. Meanwhile, it implies that caregivers could be disciplined if they engage in campaign activities on “work time” (unlike managers, who are encouraged to do so) or in patient care areas (which should be prohibited for managers as well).

Mr. Levy’s blog then cites the hospital’s “No Solicitation and No distribution” policy, which are classically used to limit pro-union messages from being distributed before a vote.

When supervisors and executives who control caregivers’ employment are encouraged to actively campaign against and their staff’s option of joining together as a union. that constitutes anything but a “fair and unhindered exchange of points of view.” After all, it is these supervisors who control whether the hospital employees remain employed at all.

This policy isn’t a recipe for an even handed election process. It is a stacked deck.

Ultimately, this is about the future of the Greater Boston region. Because one out of every six Boston jobs is in a hospital setting, the hospital industry sets the tone for our city’s economy. Will Boston be a place where a worker can support their family with one job, where workers and their families have healthcare and workers’ voices are respected? Or will this become a city only for the wealthy?

Instead of a heated back and forth, we would propose that Mr. Levy meet face to face to talk to us, find out what we’re actually proposing, and discuss the details with us.

We would prefer a productive, rational dialogue to a debate in cyberspace, and so whatever the response to this posting might be, it is unlikely that we will respond here. We once again invite Mr. Levy to engage in direct talks with us.

Anonymous said...

Mr Fadel fails to realize that healthcare workers are well educated and do not usually bow to the good old union pressure tactics that they so love to employ in order to add to their dues paying ranks (which is really what it's all about isn't it?:>). Healthcare & unions are a recipie for disaster. Unions are dinasours - and should be in an exhibit booth along with them. Thanks for our weekends and our fair wages and for that great old holiday called Labor day - now get out of my way so I can work, keep my money for myself and make my own decisions as to how my employer is treating me. PS - Mr. Levy - PLEASE don't give these attemtping robbers the limelight they so dearly want by even considering to meet with them. Meet with Senator Kennedy instead.

Signed - A FORMER union member

Anonymous said...

I'm an RN with many yrs experience presently working at BIDMC. I was curious about the difference between union/non-union hospitals when applying to several of both upon moving to Boston 6 yrs ago. It appeared to me that as a nurse, there were pluses and minuses to both systems. My husband (also an RN) and I both chose BIDMC with no real consideration given to the unionization or not. We have been very happy with the working conditions, professional acceptance and competitive pay. In short, we have no gripes. However, the tactics being used by SEIU are quite distasteful and counterproductive (this from a union-supportive, substantially left-leaning Democrat) I want no part of THAT union.