CATHOLIC HOSPITALS: Union Strife Is Widespread
Confrontations between Catholic hospitals and organized labor have become increasingly frequent in recent years, the Chicago Tribune reports. Catholic-run facilities, which represent roughly 11% of the nation's community hospitals, make an attractive target for unions because they have learned to "survive as well as expand" through mergers in a highly competitive industry. Also, labor leaders argue that church-run hospitals should abide by Catholic teachings that support the role of organized labor in society by welcoming unions wholeheartedly into their organizations. But many Catholic facilities instead say that their primary responsibility is protecting their workers -- whose interests may not be best served by union representation -- and few church-run hospitals have allowed unions to come in without a fight.
Guidelines Miss Mark
Tensions between hospitals and labor have so escalated that a group of church leaders, Catholic health care administrators and union leaders met to develop guidelines, released last fall, on how Catholic-run facilities should handle union activity. The guidelines say the two groups should strive for fair and decent relationships and stipulate that the decision to join a union should be left up to workers. But for some unions, the guidelines have done little to "change the mood" of their confrontations with hospitals. In California, for example, the SEIU and Catholic Healthcare West are facing a "showdown" after federal mediation in November failed to temper a two-year battle between the two giants; employees at 14 CHW hospitals will vote next month on union representation (Franklin/Japsen, 1/16).