The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has accepted a complaint of unfair labor practices filed by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East against George Washington University Hospital officials. The union, which represents housekeeping and dietary employees at George Washington, alleges the hospital has not been bargaining in good faith. "After years of bargaining and trying to come to an agreement with the hospital without success, we had no choice but to resort to legal action," says Yahnae Barner, 1199SEIU Vice President. "We just want a fair contract. Most of these hard-working employees make less than $15 an hour in Washington, D.C., one of the most expensive cities to live in the country. Hospital officials have continually stalled and delayed, preventing our employees from receiving a well-deserved raise."
The complaint, filed in March 2018 and amended in September, was reviewed by NLRB, which found sufficient evidence to support the charge. NLRB then issued a formal complaint and is scheduling a hearing, likely in January 2019.
1199SEIU's contract, which expired on December 29, 2016, covers 150 housekeeping and dietary employees at George Washington University Hospital. After more than two years of bargaining with no outcome, workers are pressing the hospital, a subsidiary of Universal Health Services, Inc. for a fair contract. Because there is no existing contract, these employees did not receive their annual pay increase in 2017 or 2018 and will not receive one until the dispute is resolved.
Data from the Economic Policy Institute suggests the employees' current salary is insufficient to make a living in the area: "A single worker with no children needs at least $42,119 per year - or approximately $20 per hour working full time - to get by."
In addition to trying to reach an agreement with the hospital through bargaining agreements, 1199SEIU organized two events in front of the hospital in 2018: a picket in February and a rally in June. At the events, employees demanded a fair contract and advocated for living wages and better working conditions. Two long-time hospital employees - both union delegates and bargaining committee members - were fired soon after speaking at the February picket.
The hospital is a subsidiary of Universal Health Services, Inc., one of the largest hospital management companies in the country with a long history of labor strife and federal fraud charges.
"Hospital leaders are trying to steal workers' raises, rights and voices," adds Barner. "This must stop."