SEIU Local 49 loses Lebanon Hospital vote

LEBANON, Ore. - In its drive to represent workers at the Samaritan health system, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 49 stumbled here last month. After an intense campaign by management to fight the union campaign among the hospital's lowest-paid workers, 76 workers at Samaritan's Lebanon Community Hospital voted for the union, and 98 against.

Nationally, SEIU is the largest union in health care. Portland-based SEIU Local 49 is an amalgamated local, representing about 4,000 workers in health care, 2,000 workers in building services, and 1,000 in other sectors.

In the Samaritan system, registered nurses at all five hospitals are represented by the Oregon Nurses Association. SEIU wants to represent licensed practical nurses, certified nurse assistants, phlebotomists, housekeeping, clerical, and maintenance workers and technicians.

The local has for years represented about 120 workers at Samaritan Pacific Community Hospital in Newport and about 200 workers at Albany General Hospital.

Last September, Local 49 won a 164-to-82 vote to represent workers at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis, after an earlier loss was overturned by the National Labor Relations Board because of extensive labor law violations by management. The Corvallis workers are still seeking a first contract.

Local 49 spokesperson Robyn Steely said Samaritan management committed similar violations at the Lebanon location, even firing one pro-union worker. In the final two weeks before the April 25 election, Samaritan management held 16 mandatory-attendance meetings to persuade workers to vote no.

Steely acknowledged the Lebanon defeat will make it harder for the Corvallis workers, but said SEIU has no intention of walking away from the Lebanon unit. If there is still support for unionizing, SEIU can file for another election in a year's time.

May 16, 2003 issue

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