Cynthia Leonor Garza
The document, "Respecting the Just Rights of Workers: Guidance and Options for Catholic Health Care and Unions," comes after more than a decade of talks between unions representing healthcare workers, including AFT Healthcare, and Catholic healthcare employers. It spells out how to create and maintain a fair and just workplace within Catholic hospitals that is in keeping with Catholic social teaching.
"Although we came to the table with differing perspectives, the unions and Catholic healthcare employers reached common ground so that the workers, patients and communities we serve will be the true beneficiaries," said Candice Owley, a registered nurse, an AFT vice president and AFT Healthcare chair. Owley was one of four union leaders who worked with representatives from Catholic healthcare institutions on a special subcommittee put together by the USCCB. "The bishops and Catholic healthcare showed extraordinary leadership in shaping this document, which levels the playing field to prevent conflict, tension and misinformation that can mire an organizing campaign."
AFT President Randi Weingarten said, "The USCCB has taken a bold step toward a new and positive way of thinking about labor-management relations that everyone-workers, unions and administrators-can use as a strong guidance. The process outlined in this document will create an atmosphere where employees will no longer face threats and intimidation when they consider forming a union."
The document offers seven principles for management and union representatives to follow to ensure employees can make an informed decision without undue influence or pressure from either side:
- Respect. No negative campaigning by either side.
- Equal access to information. Both employer and union representatives agree to an equal number of communications and have access to the same communications.
- Truthful and balanced communications. No misleading statements about the advantages and disadvantages of joining a union.
- Pressure-free environment. No aggressive or coercive behavior.
- Fair and expeditious process. Proceed in a timely manner without undue delays or legal haggling.
- Meaningful enforcement of the local agreement. A "local agreement" set at the beginning of the organizing campaign would outline the specific rules and measures to be used. The agreement can be enforced by a neutral third party or by other means.
- Honoring employee decisions. Neither employer nor union would attempt to reverse the outcome of the workers' decision on whether or not to unionize.