National labor board to investigate Western Connecticut Health Network dispute

The National Labor Relations Board said they will investigate complaints the Western Connecticut Health Network in Brookfield intimidated and coerced nursing assistants and other employees before an unsuccessful unionization vote last month, according to a New Milford Spectrum report.

The June 19 vote by about 800 nursing assistants and other workers at the network's Danbury (Conn.) Hospital and New Milford (Conn.) Hospital was decided by a narrow margin, and vote tallies were not disclosed, according to Matt O'Connor, spokesman for AFT Connecticut, which represents about 725 nurses and 250 technicians at the two hospitals.

Prior to the vote, Western Connecticut Health Network hired a consulting firm to participate in mandatory staff meetings that hospitals' administrators said were intended to promote an "open dialogue," according to the New Milford Spectrum.

However, the report notes, AFT Connecticut organizers said the effect of the meetings was equivalent to "harassment, coercion and intimidation."

The network terminated the consulting firm, National Labor Consultants, after learning days before the union vote that the firm's COO had served 33 months in federal prison on security fraud charges dating to 1999, according to the report, which cites federal documents from the U.S. District Court of New York.

Hospital officials declined the New Milford Spectrum's request for comment, saying their policy is to not comment on ongoing litigation.

The complaints were scheduled to be heard July 22 by an NLRB hearing officer.

If the complaints are proven to be true, the election result could be set aside, NLRB spokesperson Jessica Kahanek told the New Milford Spectrum.


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