Judge: Baystate Franklin hospital engaged in union busting

  • Recorder/Paul FranzBaystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/13/2019 11:05:25 PM

GREENFIELD  — High-ranking Baystate Health officials were found guilty of attempting to union bust at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in a case regarding the recently formed security and trades unions at the Greenfield hospital, according to an administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board who ruled in federal court this week from Hartford, Conn. 

The decision of Judge Paul Bogas can be appealed to the labor board in Washington, D.C.

The judge ordered the hospital within the next two weeks to place notices around Baystate Franklin that it violated federal labor law, and it has to remain up for two months. 

“There was definitely union busting going on. No question about it,” Organizing Director of the Law Enforcement Officers Security Union Steve Maritas said Wednesday when reached for comment on the decision. which mostly favored his union. “The truth speaks for itself.”

Baystate Health officials did not immediately respond to request for comment and whether it plans to appeal. The request was sent Wednesday, two days after the decision was released by the judge.

The first labor charge filed related to the case was in May 2017, three months after a security union formed at Baystate Franklin, and a couple weeks before the formation of Local 877, a union for trades employees including engineers and electricians, and about a month before the nurses went on strike over a bitter contract dispute that was eventually settled 

The multi-part complaint was consolidated in February 2018 and went before a judge in August, before the ruling was published this week. 

The judge ruled one of the security employees, Kris Morandi, who was the lead steward in forming their union, is to be offered his job back and presented with back pay and benefits potentially lost. This could total around $100,000, Maritas said. 

It was on the grounds of discriminatorily suspending and firing him over protected communications.

“While we’re happy for Kris, we’re saddened for the others obviously,” Maritas said, alluding to other employees who left the hospital’s employ during this time. “But we’re still claiming victory on Kris Morandi’s part.”

While former Baystate Franklin Medical Center President Cindy Russo was named in the complaint, and her involvement in the matter was central to the overall case, she was not found directly guilty of any of the charges. Russo left the hospital in January 2018 after a year and a half at the post; she said at the time it was the “right personal decision for me to explore other health care leadership opportunities.” 

The judge ruled on multiple counts that Baystate officials were guilty of coercive interrogation of both the recently formed security union employees along with the engineering employees who were in the midst of forming their own union. 

The key events in the case primarily took place in May 2017, when union negotiations with the local nurses bargaining unit were contentious. 

One instance described in the case involved Donna Stern, the bargaining chair of the nurses union, when an engineering employee was questioned by his boss about a conversation he had with her; his supervisor said he was told by Russo to ask him about it. This interaction with his direct supervisor led to the finding of unlawful interrogation and coercive questioning. 

A majority of the case revolved around one of the disgruntled security employees, who was “zealous” in her views against the forming of a union. Shannon Wissman-Hoar developed a close relationship with Russo and often alerted her of the union activity, according to court papers. 

The judge determined Russo was not acting in a coercive manner to find out information, but rather the relationship for Wissman-Hoar induced an “exhilarating sense that she was friends with a powerful manager.” 

Before the judge, Baystate Health was upfront about its general views of unions. 

Kerry Damon, the senior director of labor and employee relations for Baystate Health testified that “union avoidance” is a “goal of the organization,” according to the judge’s ruling. 

She was “concerned” when hearing the security union was going to form and when the engineer union was attempting to form. 

Deb Hutchinson, a director-level human resources and labor relations official for Baystate Health and brought in by Baystate Health’s Director of Human Resources Tony Triano, was found to have engaged in unlawfully coercive interrogation of Nick Jablonski, one of the security employees. 

A text message thread, forwarded by Wissman-Hoar, led to a conversation with Jablonski where Hutchinson “brazenly strayed from questioning” him about the specifics of the texts. Instead. Hutchinson asked him about his support of the engineer union’s effort to form. 

Greg Oles, the engineering manager at Baystate Franklin, was found to be unlawfully coercive in August, after questioning one of his employees about a conversation he heard he had with Stern. 

Triano and Joe Mitko, the manager of materials and support services at the hospital, incorrectly told Chris Livingston, an engineering employee, about the hospital’s solicitation policy and incorrectly issued him a verbal warning. 

The hospital was also found to have failed to provide adequate bargaining information to Local 877, the engineering union. 

A handful of allegations, including the ones aimed at Russo, were dismissed. 

Read the full decision online at recorder.com. 

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264


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