Health care workers unionize at local Catholic institutions
(POSTED: 8/20/12) More health care workers at religious-owned institutions are unionizing in the Chicago area. About 25 nurses at Maryville Academy’s Scott Nolan Hospital voted earlier this month to join the Illinois Nurses Association, and about 80 employees at Resurrection Home Health Services recently elected union representation with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31.
Both employers are Roman Catholic institutions.
Anders Lindall, director of public affairs for AFSCME Council 31, said there are only a handful of private institutions around Chicago with unionized health care workers and many of those bargaining units were just certified this year. (Earlier in 2012 nurses organized at Loretto and Jackson Park hospitals, according to published reports.) Most unionized health care employees work for hospitals owned by the government or universities, Lindall said.
“Health care organizing [in the private sector] has been extremely difficult and very rare in the Chicago area,” Lindall said. “It’s absolutely an important step for workers in the Resurrection chain.”
Concerned about staff turnover, the home health care workers — a group that mostly consists of nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists and social workers — fought off what Lindall called an “intense anti-union campaign of harassment and intimidation” at Resurrection Home Health Services, which is part of Presence Health, the largest Catholic health system in Illinois that formed after the merger of Provena Health and Resurrection Health Care.
Brian Crawford, a spokesman for Presence Health, denied claims of anti-union behavior and said that management “respects the rights of our employees to choose, and we will continue to respect the voices of our employees and bargain in good faith.”
At Maryville’s Scott Nolan Hospital — an inpatient psychiatric hospital in Des Plaines for children, teens and young adults — nurses organized mainly because of concerns over safety and staffing levels, according to Paul Nappier, lead organizer for the INA.
John Gorman, communications director for Maryville, said the hospital follows the guidelines on staffing levels set forth by the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry; however, “like any other group of workers, they are certainly entitled to unionize, and they have.”
“We look forward to bargaining,” he added. No negotiating sessions have been scheduled yet for either pair.
By Katie Drews, for ChicagoCatholicNews.com