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UPMC hospital workers plan Oct. 4 strike |

UPMC hospital workers plan Oct. 4 strike

UPMC Presbyterian hospital in Oakland

A group of employees at UPMC hospitals in Pittsburgh are vowing to go on strike on Oct. 4 to focus attention on what they say is the health care giant’s violation of workers’ rights to join collective bargaining.

The Service Employees International Union Healthcare Pennsylvania said in a statement that “dozens” of non-union hospital workers will participate in the one-day strike to bring attention to what it claims are the mistreatment of workers, including illegal firing, coercive interrogations, and surveillance of workers who exercise their rights to organize a union.

Instead of reporting to work, the hospital employees — including cafeteria workers, nurses’ aides , housekeepers, research assistants, medical assistants and administrative assistants — will take to the streets to protest UPMC’s alleged mistreatment of the workers. While it is unusual for non-union workers to go on strike, such labor stoppages over unfair labor practices are a protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act.

The SEIU notified UPMC on Sept. 20 of the workers’ intention to strike.

“This is very much about workers’ rights,” said Leah Conklin, a spokeswoman for SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania.

This is the latest chapter in a long-running battle between UPMC and the SEIU over the union’s push to unionize some of the healthcare systems employees, as far back as 2012.

The labor action will be limited to the UPMC hospitals within Pittsburgh, Conklin said. UPMC’s website lists seven of its hospitals within the city’s borders.

UPMC is “fully prepared to take care of our patients regardless of turnout, which in the past has been very low,” a spokeswoman said.

The strike notice came on the heels of the Aug. 6 decision by the National Labor Relations Board in Pittsburgh that ordered UPMC to stop unlawful intimidation, threats and surveillance of workers and the removal of union literature from a breakroom. That order was issued against UPMC Presbyterian, Shadyside, Children’s and Mercy hospitals.

The NLRB also in August ordered UPMC to rehire illegally fired workers at UPMC Presbyterian and Shadyside, pay them for lost time, stop anti-union practices and inform employees of their rights to form a union. Three workers were fired.

The SEIU said in the statement that the hospital system “has yet to implement any remedies.”

A spokesperson for the NLRB in Washington, D.C., did not respond to a request for a comment on whether UPMC appealed the ruling from the administrative law judge at the Pittsburgh office.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252 or [email protected]

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