Tuesday, August 3, 1999

Straub union vote
tally questioned

Straub workers voted 73-63
for a union, but a challenge of 31
uncounted votes could
change that

By Peter Wagner
Star-Bulletin staff


Workers at Straub Clinic & Hospital have voted 73 to 63 in favor of representation by the International Longshore & Warehouse Union. But a challenge of 31 uncounted votes could change the results.

The election, overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, was held Friday but tallied today.

According to the union, many of the untallied votes -- challenged by the NLRB -- were cast by workers not on a list of eligible voters submitted by Straub. A planned investigation could take weeks or months, the union said.

Tentative results show 136 employees out of about 240 deemed eligible to vote by Straub cast votes in the election. A simple majority will determine the outcome.

ILWU spokesman Rick Decosta said the challenged votes were mostly cast by workers left off of Straub's list who felt they should have been included.

The eligible employees are nonprofessional medical workers, including nurses' aides, medical assistants, ward clerks, file clerks and others.

Some Straub workers have expressed worry about their jobs in recent weeks. Others have complained of long hours, a staff shortage, or low morale. Several employees have alleged poor patient care, something vigorously denied by Straub administrators.

Straub merged with Tennessee-based PhyCor Inc. in 1997. The medical facility last October laid off 152 blue-collar workers and contracted some services out. The layoffs came on the heels of a 3 percent pay cut affecting all employees including doctors.

Workers who sought union representation pointed out there has been no pay increase at Straub since the cut. Some workers complained in recent weeks of intimidation by Straub management, including displays and signs in the hospital citing disadvantages to union representation.

The hospital has responded it was only trying to share information with its workers.

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