Union Officials Announce Lawsuit Alleging Sutter Health, Staffing Agency Violated State Labor Code
Officials from the Service Employees International Union Local 250 said they filed a lawsuit Friday in San Francisco Superior Court alleging that Sutter Health and its temporary staffing agency violated state labor laws by not disclosing to replacement personnel that they would be hired to work during an ongoing labor disagreement, the Sacramento Bee reports. At press time Saturday, the court could not confirm that the lawsuit had been filed, according to the Bee (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 12/4).
Sutter locked out until Monday employees who went on strike Wednesday to protest what they say are unfair labor practices by Sutter, including staffing issues, career advancement and training programs. The striking Sutter employees -- represented by SEIU Locals 250 and 707 -- include vocational nurses, nurse assistants, lab assistants, dietary workers, housekeepers and supply workers. The nurses participating in the sympathy strike are represented by the California Nurses Association (California Healthline, 12/3).
According to the Bee, California labor laws require employers to "plainly and explicitly mention ... that a strike, lockout or other labor disturbance exists" when recruiting replacement workers.
SEIU 250 officials said staffing agency Modern Industrial Services ran a "false and misleading" advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle indicating that workers would receive full-time pay and benefits for work during a labor dispute. The suit specifically names California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, where a contract with hospital personnel represented by SEIU 250 expired Nov. 22.
The suit seeks damages, including back wages for striking workers who were locked out. SEIU officials also said they requested that the San Francisco district attorney launch a criminal investigation of the alleged labor code violations.
John Borsos, SEIU hospital division director, said, "This is a clear-cut case where Sutter illegally replaced our workers."
Sutter spokesperson Bill Gleeson said, "Our affiliated hospitals were well within their rights to arrange for multiday replacement workers," adding, "Temporary agencies routinely provide this type of service and routinely inform their workers of the conditions they will be facing."
William Gould, a Stanford University law professor and chair of the National Labor Relations Board under President Clinton, said that hospitals have the same right to lock out striking employees as hospital employees have to organize a strike. He added, "Even if Sutter makes a case that they did not handle the advertisements to recruit workers, the law could still hold Sutter liable for recruitment efforts that failed to explicitly mention the strike" (Sacramento Bee, 12/4).