Hospital picketed as contract talks stall

Lawsuits filed, sides not close to agreement.

Local union workers picketed outside of Springfield Regional Medical Center Friday after contract negotiations between the hospital and its service and support staff resulted in no agreement.

The Service Employees International Union — which represents service and support workers at Springfield Regional and Mercy McAuley Center in Urbana — has been in negotiations with Community Mercy Health Partners since Dec. 2.

SEIU recently rejected new contract proposals and will likely reject the most recent offer proposed by the hospital during a vote Friday, said Anthony Caldwell, a spokesman for SEIU District 1199. No new negotiations are scheduled.

The SEIU represents 478 service and support employees at Springfield Regional and McAuley.

“We have offered an excellent compensation and benefits package that is competitive within our region,” said Alex Loehrer, a spokesman for CMHP, in an emailed statement Friday.

Union representatives say hospital executives are trying to force workers to give up extended illness time, paid time off and other benefits.

SEIU members at Springfield Regional, McAuley and Mercy Memorial Hospital ratified their first union contract with CMHP in 2012, but that contract expired Feb. 1. Mercy Memorial has since decertified its union status, and McAuley is in the process of seeking decertification.

The crowed gathered and held signs, including some that read “Where’s my sick time?” and “Robbing from workers is a sin!”

The hospital put up a red banner that read “Shame on the union” near the front entrance of the facility where the picketers were located.

“The banner outside our facility calls into question the union’s motives and integrity, as well as their honest intentions to negotiate for a meaningful contract,” Loehrer said.

The hospital’s latest offer includes a 2 percent annual wage increase, from 19 to 32 paid days off depending on tenure and the ability for employees to keep their extended illness bank, he added.

But union representatives said the hospital has not listened to its staff during the negotiation process.

“The problem that we have with Mercy is they come to the table with a pre-set agenda and they have refused to budge from that,” said Geoff Davies, a SEIU District 1199 spokesman from Columbus who was at Friday’s picketing. “And it makes it very difficult to negotiate with them because we feel they don’t negotiate in good faith.”

The hospital responded to the union’s claims and said they are “misguided and unfounded” and “do not reflect who we are, how we serve our patients and what we have accomplished as a team.”

The battle between the union and CMHP also includes federal and civil lawsuits.

SEIU has filed federal charges against Mercy with the National Labor Relations Board for unfair labor practices.

And on Wednesday, Mercy Health CEO Michael Connelly filed a lawsuit against SEIU Local 1100, claiming the union invaded his privacy and spread false information about him in order to “achieve maximum destruction of Connelly’s personal and professional reputation,” according to court documents.

Connelly’s suing the union for invasion of privacy and defamation, and is asking for $25,000 in damages.

The lawsuit came after negative attack ads, including a rolling billboard with Connelly’s name, face and the words “GREED, GREED, GREED” drove through his Cincinnati neighborhood last week.

The billboard also read “Mercy Health CEO Michael Connelly is Getting Rich Off The Sick, Disabled and Indigent!”

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