Bill would allow unions at UMMS Right to organize debated since 1998

Hospitals

March 15, 2000|By M. William Salganik and Michael Dresser | M. William Salganik and Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

A bill filed this week in the Maryland General Assembly would guarantee employees of University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) the right to organize unions under the terms of the National Labor Relations Act.

That right has been debated since a 1998 organizing effort by Local 1199E-DC of the Service Employees International Union at Deaton Specialty Hospital and Home in Baltimore. Deaton is owned by UMMS.

When the union filed with the National Labor Relations Board for an election, UMMS argued that it was, in effect, a state agency. Therefore, UMMS maintained, the labor board did not have the authority to order an election. The union said the medical system, which has an independent board, was a private employer.

The labor board found for the union, ordering an election, but the union lost, 127 to 115. Bob Moore, president of the local, blamed the defeat on the delays brought about by UMMS legal challenges.

Del. Howard P. Rawlings, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said he and Del. Salima Siler Marriott filed the bill only after their efforts to broker an agreement failed.

"The [UMMS] administration is saying that they're a public institution and they are not bound by the National Labor Relations Act, but on other occasions it affirms that it is a private institution and thus not subject to certain acts of the General Assembly and public policy," Rawlings said.

The Baltimore Democrat said the bill clarifies that UMMS facilities are subject to the same collective bargaining rules as the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

"I believe Hopkins is a better institution because it has a labor agreement with 1199E," Rawlings said.

Moore said yesterday that his union has been seeking the legislation. "We're interested in them not taking a delaying tactic by claiming they are not subject to the National Labor Relations Act," he said.

He said his local "has been talking to workers there for some time," but has no immediate plans for another organizing campaign or election at any UMMS facility. Besides Deaton, a long-term care facility, UMMS operates the University of Maryland Medical Center, Kernan Hospital and Maryland General Hospital.

Since the bill was introduced late in the session, Moore said, he was unsure of its prospects. UMMS officials had no comment yesterday on the legislation.

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