Hospital Board Member Challenged for "Putting Squeeze" on Caregivers

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"When hospitals take anti-worker actions they must be held accountable, and that includes the board members who often want to act in secret," said Weingarten. "If you try to increase your profit margins at the expense of your workers, you're ultimately putting profits above the well-being of the patients. The hospital needs to hear that, so we brought the message to them. I'm proud to always stand up for nurses and healthcare workers," added Weingarten.
 
Radiology technologists, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and respiratory clinicians at the WCHN-owned Danbury and New Milford Hospitals are engaged in efforts to secure their voice in decisions impacting patient care. The technical professionals in November, 2014 voted "Union Yes" in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)-supervised election and have been engaged in contract negotiations with WCHN management for 10 months.
 
"We formed our union so we could sit down with management and work together to make our hospitals a better place to receive care," said Renee Stefanko, a radiological/mammography tech with 13 years of experience at Danbury Hospital. "It seems like all management is interested in doing is playing games. We are standing together for a fair contract that recognizes us as professionals and addresses our concerns for our patients," added Stefanko, who serves on the negotiating committee for the Danbury and New Milford Federation of Healthcare Technical Employees.
 
Stefanko's comments refer to deliberations with WCHN over a first union contract for approximately 260 technical professionals that have not been resolved in nearly 10 months of talks. This, despite collective bargaining agreements covering the registered nurses at both facilities that for decades have provided a mechanism for addressing employment, workplace and patient care issues.
 
"Management spent millions and hired outsiders to break the law and prevent us from having a fair election," said Anna Princiotti, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at Danbury hospital with 28 years experience. "Now we have a second chance and we will not be fooled by management's promises. We are sticking together to bring back respect and fairness to our community hospital," added Princiotti, a member of the organizing committee for Danbury and New Milford Healthcare Workers United.
 
Princiotti's comments refer to the recent NLRB recommendation to set aside the results of a June union election by approximately 800 healthcare workers at both facilities. The board's hearing officer found evidence of unlawful conduct by WCHN managers and hired consultants in an aggressive anti-union campaign estimated to have cost up to $3 million. A new union election for the group, which includes service, environmental, maintenance and other vital patient care providers, is expected to be ordered soon.
 
"We need to hold leaders like Mr. Houldin accountable for putting patients before profits," said Davis. "His network is among the most financially sound in our state and yet they are wasting millions to deny caregivers the respect they deserve. And that's on top of handing out millions more in excessive pay to administrators," added Davis, a paraprofessional in Hartford Public Schools.
 
Davis' comments refer to Danbury Hospital's operating margin of over nine percent and network-wide revenue that reached nearly $350 million, according to 2014 records. Simultaneously, top executives received raises in excess of 40 percent and were provided total annual compensation packages of over $1 million, according to numerous press reports.
 
AFT Connecticut, the largest union of acute care health professionals in the state, represents approximately 725 RNs and 260 technicians, clinicians and LPNs at Danbury and New Milford Hospitals. For more information, visit www.aftct.org or follow the labor federation on Twitter at @AFTCT and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aftct.
 
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Click here for the "Our Community Hospitals’ Techs and Therapists" petition to WCHN's CEO, Board of Directors and the president of both hospitals.