Bend hospital fires SEIU leaders amid decert campaign


The biggest private-sector union win in Oregon in recent years is at risk of unraveling.

At St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, a narrow majority of workers voted Jan. 5, 2011 to join Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 49. But in 10 months of negotiation, no collective bargaining agreement has been achieved for the unit of 604 support workers.

When there’s no union contract a year after the vote to unionize, federal law allows a re-vote. On Feb. 21, anti-union workers at St. Charles turned in signatures from the required 30 percent of the workplace, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) scheduled a “decertification” election for March 21.

But then the federal agency put the vote on hold, at the union’s request, pending investigation of union charges that St. Charles broke federal labor law. The agency’s regional office determined that the allegations were sufficiently serious that they could potentially affect the outcome of the election, NLRB public affairs director Nancy Cleeland explained. Cleeland said the NLRB has begun interviewing witnesses and is aiming to have a decision within five weeks.

The environment at St. Charles has become hostile to union supporters, says union organizer Will Layng. The hospital placed bargaining team member Ken Daniels and two other union supporters on unpaid leave Feb. 22, and then terminated them on March 12 — because of their union activity, the union alleges. Daniels — a 12-year employee who sterilized equipment at the hospital — was the worker who first called the union.

In a written response to questions from the Labor Press, St. Charles CEO Jay Henry said the terminations were in no way related to union activity. But the hospital doesn’t disclose details related to personnel issues, he said.

Local 49 also says that St. Charles:

  • engaged in “surface bargaining” without intent to reach agreement;
  • had supervisors and managers shadow and listen in on conversations of employees who are union activists; and
  • imposed illegal no-solicitation rules, no-talk rules, no-access rules, and rules against the wearing or distribution of union insignia.

Moreover, the hospital has been holding mandatory-attendance anti-union meetings, Layng says, and frontline managers are meeting one-on-one with every member of the bargaining unit.

St. Charles is advised by an outside labor relations consultancy, The Burke Group, which specializes in “union avoidance” and “preventive labor relations.”

St. Charles CEO Jay Henry denied holding mandatory meetings, and rejected the charge that St. Charles engaged in surface bargaining.

“We have been and continue to negotiate in good faith,” Henry wrote, adding that the two sides have met over 30 times, including with a federal mediator, and that the hospital had provided more than 140 written proposals. Twenty-nine items have been tentatively agreed to.

The two sides were scheduled to meet again for bargaining April 3 and 4.


  1. Union busting is disgusting! St Charles bosses should be ashamed of themselves for bargaining in bad faith and wasting money on union busting law firms instead of providing better patient care. They have a monopoly on acute care in central Oregon and many overpaid managers. How greedy can you get?

  2. It is shameful that a hospital administration is more concerned about the bottom line than taking care of the people that take of the patients who help provide their income base.

  3. To hit St. Charles where it hurts–their pockets–, launch a boycott campaign against the companies the Board of Director members work for. The Board of Directors approve the St. Charles executive team’s policies, therefore, the workers can show their disapproval by not doing business with companies that associate with the Directors.

    Following are the companies the SCHS Board of Directors work for, or own.

    Thomas Sayeg, JD, LLM, Board Chairman: Attorney with the law firm Karnopp Petersen LLP. Avoid doing business with Karnopp Petersen LLP and its clients: Juniper Utility Company, The Association of Unit Owners and INNspired LLC, Morelock Enterprises, Sunriver Owners Association, and Mill Quarter Properties.

    Daniel Schuette, CLU, ChFC, CRPS, Vice Chairman: Senior broker at Home Federal Bank. Avoid doing business with the local bank, Home Federal Bank, and its parent company, Home Federal Bancorp, Inc. headquartered in Nampa, Idaho

    Dennis F. Dempsey, EdD: Superintendent of the High Desert Education Service District and president of the Oregon Association of Educational Service Districts. Pressure the Bend/La Pine School District to discontinue the food and professional services of HDESD.

    Douglas E. Downer, MBA: President of Sundowner Capital Management, LLC. The company partners with Charles Schwab & Co, Inc. for its online account portal.

    Todd Taylor: President of Taylor Northwest. Avoid doing business with the company or its recent clients in Bend, OR: Kohl’s department store.


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