Wednesday, October 01, 2008

SEIU at the bus stops

SEIU is now purchasing ads at bus stops in Boston. Just more of the same corporate campaign tactics. Please note, too, the insinuating "What else does the BI have to hide?" tag line. Regular readers here know how we "hide" things in view of the entire world. SEIU might want to take a page from that approach itself, so it won't be caught surprised by its own problems.


Anonymous said... doesn't currently exist. The only record I could find of it is a Google cache from September 10, which shows two short postings in Latin, both dated 9/10. This brings up an interesting comment about our society - that a web address (and the assumption of a site dedicated to the issue at hand) automatically adds a sense of legitimacy.

Anonymous said...

Memo to SEIU: "Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!" - Sir Walter Scott

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute ... where's the D?

Anonymous said...

The domain name is available; have you considered purchasing it and putting a photo of you and BIDMC on there?

Anonymous said...

Wow, that looks like a Wanted poster! More hardball. Interesting how they are trying to isolate you from the other CEO's, with the implication that they are being "good boys" (or girls), in contrast to you. Except they're next.
Wonder what a behavioral analyst would do with this stuff......


Anonymous said...

Try again -- the site is operating.

Anonymous said...

The website is up now...

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, as expected, a compendium of the various charges and stories collected and "exposed" by the SEIU over the last two years. I think I promised you that, at some point, you would find them all collected in this or another manner -- as if by force of numbers, the stories take on any additional validity.

Interesting, isn't it, that the union only has such a site about BIDMC in Boston. Maybe this is because I am the only hospital CEO who has been exposing their tactics -- which, by the way, remain uncontroverted and which are the same ones used in other corporate campaigns around the country.

Jon said...

I am a resident at BI, and personally I think we do a good job at our hospital.

I find the website and the public ads not just insulting but very disheartening. It is sad that such a one-sided, questionably slanderous viewpoint is being foisted upon the general public.

What is a proper public response?

Anonymous said...


It's a free country, and people can say whatever they want. Although I understand why you find these things to be disheartening, please rest assured that many thoughtful people and decision leaders in MA and the Boston area realize that they are being said in malice and in an attempt to gain concessions in the union organizing process. They know that this union has a certain playbook of tactics that it uses, and that the truth is nowhere near to what they put on their websites and in their ads.

People are learning, too, that this union has millions of dollars to spend on this kind of campaign. No hospital can match those resources, and so any attempt to try to stay even with them -- as far as expenditures on ads and personnel -- is impossible.

In Boston, many politicians state their public support for this union, but privately they express many reservations about these heavy-handed tactics. They have seen how the union is quick to turn against elected politicians who disagree with them on even a single issue. Therefore, while it may appear to have wide support among elected officials, that support is actually very shallow.

Perhaps someday, the local press will take on this story and expose this union's tactics for what they are. In the meantime, the best approach is for you and other people at the hospital to continue to do the superb job you do in service to our patients, who judge us on that service and not on what they might see or hear in these kinds of ads.

Anonymous said...


For a guy who spent as much time in public service at MWRA as you have, I continue to be amazed that you allow this group to egg you into reacting so publicly.

Did you miss the Exec MBA class the day they discussed how to handle these situations?

o Don’t react…stay calm and carry on. Use your energy and talents to quietly pursue excellence to defeat naysayers.
o Don’t lash out publicly--blogging is the same as calling a press conference to whine about someone who disagrees with you. You wind up sounding petulant.
o What you say in your blog reflects on every BIDMC employee, physician, Board member and Trustee, whether they agree or disagree with you. Please try to remember that.
o You are a public figure, so expect that people will disseminate mistruths and exaggerations about you and the institution you represent. It may not be fair or right, but welcome to reality. You think Sarah Palin is having a good time right now?

Someone I really respect once told me “You don’t always have to prove you are right.”

Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous,

Many thanks for your thoughts on this matter. The experience in other settings suggests that and timely and honest public disclosure of this union's tactics is a necessary response to the situation. Perhaps your view of how this situation should be handled is correct, but there is nothing to suggest that from those places.

Your reference to people running for office is instructive, but not in the way you intended. In contrast to what you suggest, they have learned that, if you let the other side define you without responding, they end up defining you. That is quite simply, the goal of this union.

Your comments about people associated with BIDMC are also well taken. But read Jon's concerns above about how they feel about these issues. Yes, I represent them in many respects, and the ads and other tactics are designed to be personally insulting to them in the community. Part of my job is to defend these very fine people from attacks on their integrity and good intentions. If they feel that I am not doing that in an appropriate way, you can be assured that they will let me know.

From your comments, I take it that you have a lot of experience in these matters. So you could very well be right. Perhaps you would offer your views on how to respond to a multi-million dollar corporate campaign against your institution if you were in my place.

Rob said...

It is a fairly common complaint that a lie can get around the world before the truth can lace up its tennies.

Someone must counter the lie. Or the bent-truth. Or non-fact. Someone has to or we wake up a nation of lies in which a single truth is laughed out of the room. Who tells the truth anymore? The truth is obsolete. It's all about engineering the best lie, right?

No. Paul, this is a line in the sand you draw. I started out being skeptical of your resistance. It's easy for me to assume your motives.

But as I've read on and on about you, I feel as though you've earned a sense of legitimacy. Integrity is its own best friend. It needs no help.

This is called trust, what I'm feeling. This is what transparency is about.

Keep writing. If more business leaders were this open, maybe we wouldn't be giving banks our own money twice.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Levy,

I've been a "consumer" of medical services (aka patient) at BIDMC for about ten years. In an attempt to communicate with you about what has become worsening service (not medical service...than's top notch) I have worked through the normal channels you have established.

However, I have concluded that either by design or by inattention, those channels work to insolate you rather than help improve service and patient satisfaction. My experience of BIDMC bureaucracy leads me to conclude that sharing documentation of instances of problems does little to correct problems. I have asked for an appointment with you but told such a thing is not possible. Seeing the bus stop notice yesterday after a follow-up visit at BIDMC I now better understand,sadly, that my experience seems not to be unique.

Anonymous said...

The SEIU invites comments, so I sent mine. It isn't anywhere on their site, so I hope I can post it here. (I guess I don't have to point out that you actually run all sides of a question.)

"Please use your energy where it is needed and leave my beloved hospital alone. Imagine the immigrants you could be helping who are truly in need of representation -- desperately in need. A father working three jobs will not know his son's teacher, participate in his daughter's sports, engage in the leadership of the schools. Imagine what you could do for society if you went after illegal employers of $2 hour workers and got them a living wage. You would change the futures of their children.

I know you are sincere. It just seems like a waste to go after one of the best employers in town. I guess that's why you picked them -- it would be high profile. The Jewish leadership would be highly empathetic to labor's cause. (Ironic -- you must know that means they are already pretty good at rights for their workers.) Anyway, picking a good employer with leadership that is favorable toward labor? That's a business strategy, not a plan for worker's rights. Which makes you certainly no better human beings than the hospital employers of Boston.

I don't know if you can hear any longer how crazy it sounds -- you're just maybe 75 years too late.

I wish you well."

Anonymous said...

Dear anon 9:38,

To the best of my knowledge, we review and look into all complaints and suggestions to try to improve the way patients are treated. And I see many, many of those. If you have not already, please send a note to my attention with the details.

Anonymous said...

This strategy of going after the best employer, not the worst, has been used many times. This time, I think it's going to backfire on them.

Shame, shame on the other hospitals for remaining silent. They'll come for you next, you know. They're already researching you, your Board, your doctors. You're sleeping, they are not. Good luck to you.

Lachlan Forrow, MD, FACP said...

I find the tagline "What else does BI have to hide?" so bizarre as to be almost surreal. As anyone who has paid any attention at all knows, BIDMC under Paul Levy's leadership is probably not only the most transparently-open hospital in Massachusetts, including about any shortcomings we have been able to identify, but possibly as transparent as any hospital in the world today. This is not an entirely new phenomenon -- under Mitch Rabkin's leadership, with Tony Lloyd in charge of corporate communications, BI was well known among journalists for being unusually open. This is one of the reasons so many of us are proud to work here.

I'm perfectly happy for you and others to point out areas in which we might do better -- if done honestly that will only help us get even better. But this campaign, which only asks about negative experiences, seems clearly to be one designed to denigrate BI even in areas (such as our transparency) in which any objective person knows we are a world leader.

Will you publicize my perspective, and any others that are favorable, or hide them and only publicize any negative comments you elicit?

Lachlan Forrow, MD
Director, Ethics Programs, BIDMC
Physician here since 1986

Anonymous said...

I have attached a link from a letter to the editor in Chico, California, where the local hospital was recently unionized by the SEIU and is subsequently unable to reach a contract agreement. I have been following this situation for some time since I know someone there.

Their situation poses an interesting glimpse into what might transpire should BIDMC be successfully unionized. The take home point I have gotten is that unionization with the SEIU is not the end, but just the beginning, of continual and vicious strife and division between the hospital and some employees, and among employees themselves. This is significantly distracting from their patient care work. Is this what BIDMC wants for itself, either employees or physicians or administration?
My earlier advice stands: if you don't like what's happening at your hospital, form a union of your own - don't go with a national union which has only its own welfare at heart.

nonlocal MD

Anonymous said...

Mr. Levy, Thanks for your reply: "If you have not already, please send a note to my attention with the details."

Since much of what I have is related to confidential billing to medicare, a face-to-face meeting with you would be better than a note. Personal contact with you, not notes, can rebuild low confidence. What phone number should I call to set up an appoint? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I would add that the comments on these ads assume (perhaps correctly) that the public doesn't know how to "read" the claims made in the ads: it makes work easier for people in the sound-bite and smear businesses. The real counter to these communications is for 'consumers' to buff up their knowledge of the issues and industry, and for ALL the voices in the conversation to have a hearing - which means that this blog and other public statements are a good idea! - Responsible consumerism requires media and industry literacy.

Toni Brayer, MD said...

Paul, I believe people need to know all of the facts and every side of a story. SEIU thrives on innuendos, sensationalism and outright lies. Stay true to your gut...ethical and truthful counters to this type of behavior. Health care has enough challenges without these corporate campaigns to get membership. Don't let them divert us from our mission and our work.

Lachlan Forrow, MD, FACP said...

I meant to note that the previous comment was just copied from what I entered on the "Eye on BI" web site's comment section. I will be interested to see if they let others see it, and also the earlier comments above by mdspencer.


PS: I should be clear that I have no strong personal view about whether it might be possible for unionization of one or more groups of BIDMC employees to be done in a way that would be a good thing. Labor unions have historically done some very important things for workers in the US that never would have happened if they hadn't had the power that comes through organizing workers and then pushing management hard. But I think that the "Eye on BI" website is frankly offensive, not just to BIDMC, but to anyone who would like to have an honest and rational discussion about the possible pros and cons of unions in hospitals like BIDMC.

If this is what unionization would look like, then I'd like to thank the website for moving me from being rather uninformed and agnostic to making me utterly sure that having THIS union represent BIDMC workers would be a truly terrible thing.

Anonymous said...

I have worked here for 23 years taking care of patients and trying to improve the systems of care. I come from a family with a strong labor background and am a fierce supporter of our First amendment rights of free expression. Having said that, I was truly perplexed to see the crude and misleading SEIU sign outside my Shapiro office window maligning our hospital where we come to work every day to take the best care of patients that we can. I can only hope that enough citizens with common sense will see that the SEIU sign will backfire.

Rich Parker, MD

Anonymous said...

I find this infuriating. Everyone involved in health care knows that the unions are killing our ability to take care of patients efficiently and effectively. This is greed at it's worst.

Anonymous said...

I think we should launch a website, LIES ABOUT BI(D) to counter this slanderous SEIU trash.

EB said...

Another example of the union's shameful and reprehensible tactics to bring down and discredit the name of anyone who dares stand up to them.

Is the union any different than the evalgelists who preach how they will "save" the congregations yet it requires that they pay for their sins? Any different than making promises for better working conditions, benefits and lives, and all they have to do is pay their union dues.

It is amazing how so many are easily impressed that they will "tip the dancing bear".

Anonymous said...

I started at the former Deaconess hospital in 1994. I have seen these union attempts many times with the trades.
Fortunately for BIDMC a majority of our employees are very familiar with their tactics and are clearly unimpressed.
My co-workers and I consider BIDMC to be a great place to work and will support BIDMC in any way we can.

Anonymous said...

As a happy empolyee of BIDMC thank god this hospital has not unionized! And come to think of it this is the worst ad ever...if they wanted to get their point across you think they would use our colors or something...

Anonymous said...

Hello Paul
Here is a copy of the email I wrote to the SEIU:

Hello Dana
I just wanted to let you know I find your organizations tactics appalling. I was a union employee for 11 years prior to taking a job at BIDMC. I chose BIDMC BECAUSE it is a NON UNION hospital. We here in America get to have that choice. There are many union hospitals in Boston that I could have chosen if I desired the union experience again. I am treated with so much more respect and dignity at BIDMC than I ever was at my previous job. BI treats all its employees with respect. I am quite sure if we the workers wanted a union.... we would have one. I find it distasteful and dishonest to place ads outside the hospital implying we are not providing the best care we can, or that we are lying to the public in any way. Shouldnt your resources be spent elsewhere? Dont your dues paying members deserve better allocation of resources other than maliciously lying at bus stops? Please try to be better than this, it is shameful.
Suzanne Sweeney

Anonymous said...

It's truly unfortunate that the SEIU has resorted to this smear campaign. According to the SEIU, BID has been shirking its responsibility as a health care provider. What's the solution? Unionize the workplace. If we use history as a guide, unions have been formed to serve the interests of employees to halt/prevent exploitation by management and general worker abuse. However, in this instance nothing remotely approaches this situation. This is a disgraceful attempt to grow the number of SEIU union members under the guise of health care improvement. By attempting to call into question the care that patients receive, the SEIU hopes to hit BID where it's most significant; the bottom line. In the end, the true victims are the employees of BID. Ironically these are the same people that the SEIU purportedly is going to help.