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Hospital workers vote against joining union

(ran PW, PS editions)

A majority of service and support staff members at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point have elected not to become a part of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The so-called "nonprofessional" group included 270 employees, ranging from executive secretaries to the maintenance staff. Thursday's vote was the third on unionization among Bayonet Point workers, but the nonprofessional employees were the first to reject unionization outright. The vote was 172-69 against the union.

"The people had an opportunity, and they lost," said Bob Maldunis, regional organizer for the Georgia-Florida conference of Teamsters. David Williams, the hospital's chief executive, said in a statement that management was pleased that employees had "heard our message and trusted us to devise solutions to the issues of concern to them. They will not be disappointed."

The registered nurses voted 167-136 in favor of the union last month, but the hospital filed objections to the vote with the National Labor Relations Board, saying the union had threatened and intimidated employees, made attempts to coerce them and acted in a way that caused an unfair election.

Also last month, a group of technical workers, including licensed practical nurses and technicians, voted 51-46 in favor of unionizing, but seven ballots have been challenged.

Both of those challenges will be resolved in a National Labor Relations Board hearing that has yet to be scheduled.

Maldunis said employees involved in Thursday's vote told him that hospital management had "interrogated" them and asked them what their votes were going to be, which would be against the labor board's regulations. But at this point, Maldunis said, he does not plan to file objections to this election.

"These people (the employees) came to me and wanted me to help them out," Maldunis said. "Unfortunately, the hospital and their high-dollar lawyers interrogated employees, telling them that "the Teamsters can't do anything for you, and we can handle things ourselves.' "

Kurt Conover, business development director for the hospital, said that management made efforts to "educate and inform" employees so that they could make the best possible decision and held meetings that they encouraged employees to attend to make sure they got to know the new chief executive.

He said the hospital never asked employees how they were going to vote. "We understand that can't be done," he said.

Both the union and the hospital have seven days after the election to file formal objections with the National Labor Relations Board.

_ Jennifer Goldblatt covers business in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6229 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6229. Her e-mail address is goldblattsptimes.com.

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