OPEN LETTER TO MR. JENNINGS
William R. Jennings
President and Chief Executive Officer
South Hills Health System
Coal Valley Road
P.O. Box 18119
Pittsburgh, PA 15236-0119
Dear Mr. Jennings,
A number of employees who received your letters of December 23 and December 30 felt the need to reply to some of the misleading and even mildly threatening statements that you made.
In the first place, in order for us to petition the NLRB for an election, a requisite number of cards must be signed that equals a specified percentage of eligible employees. If this does not occur, the NLRB will not schedule an election to be held. So, those who are interested in forming a union, indeed, have to sign a card so that the process of petitioning for a union can go forward. While a signature on one of these cards is legally binding, as stated in your letter, there are no further obligations. We are not even required to vote in an election, let alone vote "yes", if we choose not to do so. As for PSEA "exclusive representation", we actually invited the PSEA to help us gain a voice in improving our wages and working conditions. Once the union is in place, assuming that occurs, we, the employees, are now the union, and the PSEA representatives serve the members as guides and consultants in achieving our goals. They will not be telling us what to do or "determining what is best" for us. We make the decisions and WE will live with them.
Also, the PSEA made no promises to us regarding what they can "get" for us with respect to wages, hours, terms and conditions of employment. That is what could be negotiated by the employees and the hospital. PSEA will help us negotiate the contract, but we will decide what is reasonable and fair. You have made us out to appear like innocent dupes in an elaborate attempt to squeeze "dues and fees" from us while getting nothing from the PSEA in return While we agree that nothing is automatic if the union gets in, we, the employees, will request certain changes and the hospital must bargain in good faith. This is what "negotiate" means. Your veiled threats that the hospital can simply refuse to negotiate with the union does not scare us.
As for your remarks about promises that cannot be made by the managers, we can only reply "So what?" In the past year, several changes have been made to our health care coverage with little or no warning. In fact, the latest changes affecting the co-pays for prescriptions and doctor visits no only will amount to a substantial financial hardship for many employees, but also require that we use one pharmacy, Giant Eagle, almost exclusively. Nor will these added costs be offset by even a meager cost of living increase. Some of us have on idea where we will come up with the additional funds for the increases. Who was representing the employees then? Was it the hospital, the System or you?
Let's face it MR. Jennings. We currently have no one, who can and will represent the employees' needs and concerns. The hospital does not do it now, yet you would have us believe that they our best interest at heart. We are not as naive and gullible as you may like to think, and we believe it is now time to stop spinning our wheels and complaining about a situation that gets worse every day. Its time to take matters in our own hands and effect the changes that must be made. We are "at will" employees so the reality of our present situation as such does not exactly lend itself to trust in the benevolence of the System. We are highly skilled and expertly trained individuals whose value and contribution to the System is greatly underestimated, under appreciated and taken for granted in an increasingly arrogant manor. We are not disposable or interchangeable parts to be exploited untill there is no further use for us, only to be discarded when someone feels pressure to cut a budget.
As you well know, unions came into being because of abuse of employees. While we will not accuse the hospital of abuse in the strongest sense, the employees, who actually keep this institution functioning smoothly on a day to day basis, are being taken advantage of in a deplorable fashion. This may be the direct result of managed care, but we are painfully aware of the need of some entity, in this case a union, to look after our best interests and protect us from becoming victims of the incredible greed displayed by many so-called "health care" providers. Who is going to take care of all the health care workers after their physical, mental and/or financial health has been decimated? For that kind of protection, we need a union, specifically the PSEA. For this representation, we will be paying dues that is true. But, there are no additional fees or assessments and no dues will be paid unless and untill a contract is successfully negotiated. These are some of the facts you skillfully left out of your letters. Nor are the managers likely to offer these fact if we were to ask for them since it is clear that management is truly worried that we, the employees, will actually find out the truth and choose PSEA. As an organized union represented by the PSEA, we will be a force to be reckoned with and not so easily misled, intimidated or dismissed
Contrary to the tone of your letters, Mr. Jennings, we are not a bunch of hapless sheep being led to slaughter and are not fooled by your motives. You have a job to do and we have ours. A climate of mutual respect and understanding will be much more productive and conductive to the needs of our patients. They are, after all, the reason why we are here in the first place. Isn't that so?
Best wishes to you in this New Year
Concerned and Committed Employees of Jefferson Hospital