Labor judge responds to CGH objections to union

STERLING – A state Labor Relations Board judge responded to three objections CGH Medical Center posed against forming a union at the hospital.

Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees filed majority-interest petitions in December 2019 with the Illinois Labor Relations Board for union certification following months of meetings and gatherings with interested staff.

CGH made three objections stating that a majority of employees only signed union cards because of fraud and coercion, that certain nurses in a specialty unit should be divided from the bargaining unit, and that an EMR, electronic medical record, trainer shouldn’t be included in the union.

AFSCME opposed all the objections arguing that all nurses and employees should be in one unit, and that CGH offered no evidence or witnesses to claims of fraud and coercion.

Administrative Law Judge Matthew S. Nagy issued a decision Tuesday dismissing those two objections from the hospital but siding with CGH that the EMR trainer would be excluded.

CGH alleged that the spouse of an employee who works for the sheriff’s department went door-to-door to staff in uniform in an attempt to get employees to sign authorization cards, and that such amounted to fraud or coercion. However, CGH did not provide any witnesses or evidence to the claim and stated that those employees feared reprisal.

According to Nagy’s 36-page decision:

“In its brief, CGH repeats substantially the same allegations with respect to the fraud or coercion issue as it made in its submissions to the Board during the course of the investigation. While those allegations were sufficient to move the issue to hearing, the burden at hearing was on CGH to demonstrate clear and convincing evidence of its fraud or coercion claim. Despite this, CGH did not provide any evidence at hearing on the issue. The only evidence sought to be offered was impermissible hearsay.”

Now that those objections were ruled on, either side can file exceptions, similar to appeals, to the decision followed by responses to any exceptions.

CGH President and CEO Dr. Paul Steinke said they have not yet decided whether they will pursue the appeals process and that they are focused on providing care during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are aware of the ruling at this point and have not yet made a decision on our next steps,” he said. “We will be evaluating all options and opportunities afforded to us, but remain respectful of the process. Our priority remains taking the best care of our patients and all our employees within the CGH family as we help our community get through this COVID pandemic.”

AFSCME is hoping the decision will end any more delays to forming the union.

“We are calling on management to accept the decision, to not file any exceptions that would only waste more time and money, and to recognize the union,” said Anders Lindall of AFSCME 31. “Ultimately, the next step is for the labor board to certify the union and for us to sit down at the bargaining table with management and negotiate a contract.”

The union would include registered nurses (RNs), certified nurse assistants (CNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), phlebotomists, medical assistants and other health care workers.

“I voted to form a union at CGH to ensure fair pay, fair treatment and a guaranteed voice in caring for our patients,” registered nurse Manuel Mooney said in a news release.

Nearly 1,000 employees are advocating for the union.

“I am proud that we stood together, unified, to form our union,” registered nurse Jodi Thompson said. “At the end of the day, we want to make CGH stronger, to serve our community the best way we know how: through care and compassion.”

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers joined Sauk Valley Media in 2016 covering local government in Dixon and Lee County.