GWUH Workers Hold Fast Against Union BusterApril 30, 2018
Contract campaign has many components.
For more than a year, some 150 1199 members at George Washington University Hospital (GWUH) have been locked in a battle for a contract with an increasingly hostile management that refuses to bargain in good faith.
This fight has important implications for all 1199ers. Unions across the nation have noted that bosses, emboldened by the Trump administration’s anti-worker National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), will attempt to squeeze workers, including those with Union contracts.
“Management is not interested in reaching an agreement,” says Calvin Christian, a GWUH cook and 1199 delegate. “They are more interested in slandering the Union and trying to make us believe that they are the best thing since sliced bread.”
Christian contends that one of management’s tactics is to frustrate the members and tire them out. For example, management did not schedule a single negotiating session for the month of March. “They are trying to divide us and pick us off so they can eventually decertify the Union,” he warns.
Among the actions management has taken in the past year include stalling to provide $80,000 in back pay to 21 workers in the hospital’s dietary department. Members say that workers have been written up and suspended for trivial violations such as arriving a few minutes late.
Much of what Christian and others describe comes straight out of the standard union-busting playbook. Fisher Phillips, the international law firm that is leading the hospital offensive against the 1199 members, has garnered a reputation as a vicious union-busting organization. Such firms are described on their websites as management or labor consultants, and union-avoidance firms, but those who have dealt with them say “hit men” or “mercenaries” are more accurate terms.
But 1199, as usual, has not been an easy target. The members and district leadership are fighting back on many fronts. A high point of the campaign was a Valentine’s Day March for Justice on Feb. 14 in Washington that called on GWUH to “put the heart back into health care.”
At the spirited march and rally members sang, danced and shouted many calls and responses, including: “What do we want?” “A contract.” “When do we want it?” “Now!” Members also declared, “If we don’t get it (a fair contract), shut it down.” Rally speakers stressed that the fight was not just for the workers, but also for the patients and community.
While keeping members engaged and mobilized, the Union leadership has also filed unfair labor practice charges against Fisher Phillips with the NLRB.
“I am proud of what I do, and I do a good job, despite how I’m being treated,” says Yolanda Espana, a GWUH housekeeper for the past 10 years. Espana also believes the bad treatment and rudeness on the part of management is part of their decertification effort. “But I won’t let it happen,” she says.
“I was a proud Union member at Georgetown Hospital before I came to George Washington, and I know how important our Union is. We will stay united. They have the money, but we have the power.”