Southcoast Health hires consulting firm amid unionization push

Southcoast Health System officials said they are against nurses' unionization efforts at New Bedford, Mass.-based St. Luke's Hospital and have hired a consulting firm to provide information about organizing to workers.

On Nov. 2, St. Luke's Hospital nurses delivered a letter about their desire to unionize to the office of Southcoast President and CEO Keith Hovan. Nurses said they wanted hospital administrators to respect their "right to form a union by remaining neutral as nurses prepare to vote in the union election," according to a WBSM report.

Mr. Hovan sent a letter to nurses Nov. 6, thanking them for expressing their views and outlining his position on the unionization issue.

"I always appreciate any opportunity to better understand the thoughts, views and concerns of our employees here at Southcoast Health," he wrote.

However, "I do not believe the unionization of nurses at St. Luke's Hospital is in the best interest of you — our respected and valued nurses — or our patients. The most effective way to address any challenge rests squarely with our collective ability to communicate and collaborate as a team."

St. Luke's Hospital nurses seek to join the Massachusetts Nurses Association and filed notice with the National Labor Relations Board on Nov. 2 to try to have an election, according to the union.

The MNA, which cites "inadequate staffing levels" as a key reason for the unionization push, said Southcoast has hired a consultant "with ties to a union-busting firm."

Southcoast confirmed it hired the Burke Group, a Malibu, Calif.-based labor relations consulting firm.

System spokesperson Patricia Giramma told Becker's of the decision: "Our nurses deserve to have accurate and reliable information before making this important decision. At Southcoast Health, our primary focus is to provide great quality care and service to our patients, not to organize labor. We have engaged the Burke Group to ensure that our nurses have all of the accurate and reliable information available to make an informed decision based on the facts, including what a union can and cannot do for them."

If an election is held and nurses vote to join the MNA, the decision would cover about 750 nurses at St. Luke's Hospital.




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