National Labor Relations Board accuses U. of Pittsburgh Medical Center of anti-union tactics

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PITTSBURGH — The National Labor Relations Board has again accused the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center of engaging in anti-union tactics.

The complaint was announced Thursday by the Service Employees International Union, which has been trying for years to unionize some 3,500 non-clinical employees.

In November, an administrative law judge found UPMC engaged in unfair labor practices and ordered the health network to halt certain practices, including denying non-employee organizers access to its cafeteria, conducting surveillance on employees and organizers, and barring workers from wearing union insignia in non-patient care areas.

UPMC's appeal of that finding is pending. Meanwhile, the new complaint contains similar allegations, but none more recent than June 2014.

"The SEIU has yet again resorted to manufactured unfair labor practices charges in an attempt to discredit UPMC during its unsuccessful attempt to organize hospital employees," UPMC said in a statement. "For the SEIU, this is no longer about representing its members but rather about advancing its political goals by creating a media spectacle of protests and unfair labor practice charges that will resurface as long as UPMC hospital employees resist the SEIU organizing activity."

But Maryanne Williams, who works as a medical coder at University of Pittsburgh Physicians — one of several UPMC hospitals or affiliates named in the complaint — said western Pennsylvania's dominant hospital network continues to illegally monitor her union activity and that of other employees.

"UPMC workers and Pittsburgh need our region's largest employer to make a real commitment to stop violating workers' rights and let us form our union without illegal harassment or intimidation," Williams said in a statement issued by the union.

UPMC has more than 60,000 employees and operates more than 20 hospitals in western Pennsylvania. It's the state's largest non-governmental employer.

Among other things, the union contends UPMC executives and supervisors have removed union literature from a break room bulletin board at UPMC Shadyside hospital and stopped a Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC employee from wearing a union ribbon in patient care areas and other place.

The union contends UPMC also has begun enforcing what the union claims is a "long-ignored rule" that prevents some employees from gathering in break rooms more than 15 minutes before or after shifts. The union contends that policy and others are meant to keep workers from discussing the union freely at work.

An administrative law judge is scheduled to hear the latest complaint on April 14 in Pittsburgh's William S. Moorhead Federal Building, though a hearing could be avoided if the sides settle their disagreements before then.

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