UAW, SEIU deny organizing hospital workers

Union organizing efforts are under way at The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich, CT,, a hospital spokesman confirmed Thursday, and management last week sent a letter to the facility's 1,840 employees. "Our hospital doesn't need a union," said Keith Fontaine, vice-president of corporate communications for the hospital, summarizing the letter's contents. "We just think that our employees receive wages and benefits that are competitive and generous."

The hospital first heard information about the drive about a month ago, he said, but it is not clear which union is behind the effort. Both the UAW, which is attempting to organize workers at Foxwoods Resort Casino, and SEIU Local 1199 Thursday denied involvement in the drive.

Fontaine said recent activity doesn't appear to be a formal attempt to create a union. The last such attempt was in the mid-1970s. The hospital also has consulted with regional offices of Jackson Lewis, a national legal firm dealing in workplace law retained by Backus since 1974, about the situation, he said.

"This isn't altogether unusual, although it doesn't happen annually," Fontaine said of organizing efforts. "We're not certain which individuals are being targeted."

Backus administration has encouraged ongoing dialogue among employees, their supervisors and even Thomas Pipicelli, the hospital's president, Fontaine said.

"Hospitals are complex organizations," he said, "and we've got to keep talking with a large work force."


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