IAM Justice for Healthcare Workers International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
About Us News Join IAM Politics Links International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

Union of Unemployed - UCubed
Download The Official IAM App

Justice for Healthcare Workers


Community Supports Worker Rights- Bangor Daily News Op Ed
Freedom from fear for workers, health care system Friday, December 09, 2005 - Bangor Daily News Why is the nonprofit Eastern Maine Medical Center spending so much money and effort trying to take away the fundamental right of its workers to organize a union?

EMMC's chief executive officer, Deborah Carey Johnson, put the following into writing: "I ... ask that you do not sign or support the Machinists" (according to a letter from her to EMMC employees on July 15). Most workers know that directly contradicting the clear directions of one's employer usually means discipline, the loss of opportunities of advancement, firing or some other form of retribution. Verbally, the talk from EMMC supervisors is much harsher, according to members of our committee, making it clear they are keeping an eye on those workers who support the union.

As an organizer for the Justice for Healthcare Workers Campaign being run by the machinists' union, all workers with whom I've spoken are concerned that their support for the union may result in backlash from management.

This is simply wrong and has no place in our community, much less our community's non-profit hospital. Fear of retribution is bad for both morale and our healthcare system. Health care workers need to be free to make positive comments to better work conditions and the delivery of healthcare. They are seeking such a voice at work in order to fight for the conditions necessary to give the best health care possible- their goal each day at work.

The housekeepers, cafeteria workers, laundry workers, nursing techs, unit secretaries and others deserve fair pay, benefits and a protected voice on the job. Their work may not be as glamorous at times, but EMMC could not run without them and these workers need a protected voice in order to better the health care system.

Today, that job is getting harder and harder. The work of housekeepers, who keep our hospital clean and sanitary, has increased in some instances by more than 30 percent in the last few years. At the same time nursing techs regularly average 14 to 16 patients - an extremely high workload in one of the most dangerous professions in America. According to the Maine Department of Labor's report, "Characteristics of Work-related Injuries and Illnesses in Maine 2003," nurse aides, orderlies and attendants have the second highest injury frequency in Maine. The primary injuries are sprains, strains and tears including back injuries.

To make matters worse, some nursing techs are training new hires who make more money than they do. Unbelievable, but true, this practice is widespread at EMMC, where workers who have proven themselves year in and year out are training people fresh off the street, and in some cases the new hires are making over one, two or sometimes even more dollars per hour.

The Justice for Healthcare Workers campaign believes workers have a right in this country to decide for themselves whether or not they want a union, and they have a right to make that choice in a climate free from management intimidation and threats, both implicit and explicit.

All health care workers, patients and the community have a stake in EMMC. In fact, EMMC in its own tax documents states that it is a "nonprofit hospital, serving all who need care, regardless of ability to pay..." and functions "under community direction." Because of this, EMMC pays no property or income taxes and because of this EMMC must be held to a higher standard. And therefore EMMC should state clearly and publicly that it will not engage in any form of retribution to its employees who discuss unionization, or who support a union.

The Justice for Healthcare Workers Campaign sent a letter to EMMC top management and the EMMC board of directors stating the goals of the workers as follows: "making work rules more transparent; bettering work conditions; and giving workers' a seat at the decision making table. Empowering workers through unionization offers a tremendous opportunity for better jobs, a better work environment and a better healthcare system at EMMC."

The letter also asked for management to positively stop its campaign of intimidation utilizing high-priced, out-of-state, anti-union lawyers and consultants. Unfortunately, EMMC top management has not responded to this letter and has continued its campaign against its own workers.

In a real democracy, citizens should not have to check their rights at the workplace door. A second union, in addition to the Maine State Nurses Union, at EMMC would be good not only for workers, but also for improving our health care system and for our community as a whole.

Unions not only "brought us the weekend," Social Security, Medicare-Medicaid and a host of other social advancements, they also bring a voice at work - which means dignity and democracy on the job.

Jack McKay is president of the Greater Bangor Area Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and is an organizer with the Justice for Healthcare Workers Campaign, organized by the International Association of Machinists. The council invites the public to attend International Human Rights Day at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at the union hall, 20 Ivers St. in South Brewer (located behind St. Teresa's Church). For more information call 989-4141.

Contact Us   |   Search   |   GoIam   |   iMail Signup
Last modified: 2/18/2010

Copyright 1996-2001, The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers