St. Charles Medical Center workers vote by slim majority to join SEIU

Workers at St. Charles Medical Center voted Jan. 5 by a narrow margin to unionize with Portland-headquartered Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 49. The tally was 255 to 251, but 34 other ballots were cast by workers whose right to vote was challenged. That’s enough to affect the outcome.

The National Labor Relations Board won’t certify Local 49 as the workers’ representative until the challenges are resolved.

Local 49 said on its web site that St. Charles management waged a negative campaign, taking caregivers away from their patients on several occasions to take part in one-on-one and group meetings in which managers tried to convince workers to vote no.

Local 49 also said St. Charles unlawfully limited workers’ speech inside the hospital. The union planned to file unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board.

The union said as of November it had support from a solid majority of workers at St. Charles, who petitioned management to voluntarily recognize their union; management insisted on an election.

Turnout was high, with 506 workers casting ballots out of 604 workers considered to be in the proposed bargaining unit. The group includes 69 support staff job classifications, ranging from cooks, cashiers and baristas to housekeepers, pharmacy techs, and receptionists.

Local 49 represents over 7,000 workers in Oregon and Southwest Washington hospitals.

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