Foundation Faces New Demands for Legal Aid
Big Labor mounts assault on health care employees

September/October 1999 Issue

BUFFALO, NY -- Foundation attorneys are preparing to respond to a dramatic increase in legal aid requests to defend health care workers from the abuses of compulsory unionism.

In recent weeks, American Medical Association (AMA) officials announced their support for a reckless plan to hand over control of doctors to the union bosses. The AMA's decision followed a similar action by American Nurses Association brass.

With momentum moving in their direction, union bosses are licking their chops as they eye the biggest cash cow they've shot for in decades.

Foundation attorneys fight to save health care worker's job

The shape of the coming battle can be seen in Buffalo, New York, where AFL-CIO Hospital and Nursing Home Council union officials issued a threat to nurse Ruth Beccue. The union bosses ordered her to sign a dues authorization card and start paying full union dues, or the union would have her fired.

As an employee at the Delaware Heights Health Care Center for years, she was amazed by this sudden turn of events. After some investigation, she and co-worker Dana Carl requested legal assistance from Foundation attorneys, who immediately filed demands for injunctions on their behalf to save the employees from imminent firing. They also filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against union officials for illegally forcing the nursing home's employees to become formal, full-dues-paying union members as a condition of employment.

"The medical profession is not immune from ham-handed union tactics -- in fact, the tactics are becoming epidemic," said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the Foundation. With the health care industry now accounting for more than 12 percent of America's economy, free-riding union bosses see health care workers as a tempting new source of forced-dues revenue for their political cash coffers.

Union bosses gun for medical professionals

Union bosses at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are leading the pack in efforts to impose compulsory unionism abuses on health care employees. Under former SEIU president John Sweeney -- now top dog of the giant AFL-CIO -- SEIU organizers were famous for heavy-handed organizing.

For example, as part of its forced-dues campaign against HCF Inc. in Ohio, an SEIU tough went to a health care worker's home and demanded she sign a union authorization card. According to the worker, the union thug sneered that the union would "come and get her children and it would also slash her tires" if she refused. Foundation attorneys have tangled with the SEIU on many occasions in defense of workers' rights. With the help of Foundation attorneys, Mary Burkholder, a nurse at Chambersburg Hospital in Pennsylvania, charged that the SEIU union maintained an illegal union shop and ignored her resignation from union membership.

Foundation attorneys, providing free legal aid to Burkholder, convinced the NLRB General Counsel that the SEIU union officials violated her Foundation-won rights. These include the Foundation's landmark Supreme Court victory in Beck v. CWA, which allows employees to reclaim their compulsory union dues used for everything but the proven cost of collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment.

Ultimately, Foundation attorneys secured refunds and notice of Beck rights to Burkholder and all of her nursing colleagues.

Health care quality suffers under forced unionism

After having their rights trampled, health care workers aren't the only victims of Big Labor's march - the quality of health care also suffers. Union bosses use their control over the workforce to dictate wasteful work rules in order to achieve their primary goal - more forced dues.

Even worse, strikes (often illegal) and outrageous attacks by union bosses on the quality of patient care are becoming increasingly common. In Maryland, union bosses ordered nurses out on strike at four hospitals, leaving patients stranded and ambulances racing for 20 miles or more looking for an open emergency room.

"Compulsory unionism injustices not only jack up the cost and reduce the quality of health care," said Gleason, "but when union officials use caregivers as pawns in orchestrated power grabs, lives are at risk."

The crisis facing health care today is similar to the situation in the 1960s when the National Education Association (NEA) union bosses promised parents that teachers would never be ordered to strike and that the interests of the students would be the union's number one priority. Thirty years later, America's education system is in utter ruin, and the NEA has never been richer or more politically powerful.

As militant union organizers are able to impose the injustices of compulsory unionism on America's health care workers, all indications are that a similar fate will befall a profession that affects the lives and health of every American.

"In the past, protecting union-abused medical workers has only been a small part of the Foundation's total legal assistance program," said Gleason. "However, given recent events, the number of health care workers who desperately need the assistance of the Foundation is growing."


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