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Workforce at St. Mary’s votes to unionize ranks

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Employees in a variety of positions at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Bayside decided by a large margin to form a labor union under 1199/SEIU during a two-shift election held last week.

National Labor Relations Board spokeswoman Nancy Cleeland said that out of 218 eligible voters, 138 voted in favor and 58 voted against setting up a union.

“It was a significant margin,” she said.

Ten ballots were challenged, though Cleeland said this was not sufficient enough to question the Aug. 17 election results.

The hospital declined to comment on the outcome.

Last month, union organizers invited reporters to a meeting at the Knights of Columbus building on Bell Boulevard, where non-management employees such as certified nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses as well as housekeepers and clerks cited unfair wages, poor working conditions and poor communication with management as their reasons for wishing to form a union.

Cleeland said the NLRB is still investigating two unfair labor practice charges filed against the hospital.

Moses St. Louis, an 1199/SEIU organizer, earlier said management was retaliating against employees for their organizing efforts by disciplining them for minor violations. He also said at least one employee had been fired as an act of retaliation. He did not respond to requests for comment.

Cleeland said it is often the case that a labor union will withdraw charges after an election victory depending on the nature of the allegations. She said if someone is alleged to have been fired for union activities, it is less likely such a charge would be withdrawn.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 11:32 am, October 12, 2011
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