By: Keith Kappes
Carter County Times
In spite of its long, proud history of organized labor’s progress in pay and working conditions for workers in area industries, Ashland residents now should be wondering if the acquisition of King’s Daughters’ Medical Center by the University of Kentucky was merely camouflage for killing the hospital’s union.
About 500 members of Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union have been informed by KDMC CEO Kristie Whitlatch that the existing labor contract between the hospital and the union is null and void.
Union officials claimed that the University and the hospital could have chosen to continue collective bargaining. Kentucky state law does not require a public agency to recognize and bargain with a union, but it may do so voluntarily as is the case with some school boards and local governments.
Whitlatch’s message must have felt like a punch in the gut for the hourly workers impacted by the demise of the union. In part, she wrote: “……the University and its affiliated corporations have no duty to recognize, negotiate or bargain with unions, with other authorized bargaining agents or with individual employees.”
The hospital stopped collecting union dues, recognizing union representatives, accepting grievances, and working with union committees regarding health and safety, patient care and labor and management.
The union represented mostly hourly employees not involved directly in patient care such as phlebotomists, EKG technicians, medical records personnel, clerks, food services, environmental services, maintenance, and secretarial staff.
As you might expect, UK and KDMC management says wages and benefits won’t change with the ousting of the union. But the union is skeptical, saying the affected workers need reassurance.
The union also reportedly is filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board with a claim that KDMC has not paid a promised bonus of $200 to union members who ratified the most recent collective bargaining agreement.
It appears those 500 disenfranchised workers aren’t really important to the Big Blue Nation, the athletic colossus that owns a university instead of vice versa.
(Contact Keith at firstname.lastname@example.org).