(WORCESTER, Mass.) – Technicians at Saint Vincent Hospital have become members of Teamsters Local 170 following an election yesterday in which more than 75 percent of voting workers cast ballots in favor of union representation. The vote count was 130-40 and there are more than 200 technicians in the bargaining unit.
The technicians who work in radiology, operating room, respiratory, sterile processing and other departments sought Teamster representation in an effort to win better health care benefits, safer staffing levels and respect from hospital management.
“It’s been a lot of work to get to this victory, but everyone feels really great because we stayed united and focused on our goal—and we had a lot of support from the nurses,” said Jennifer Fontaine, a surgical technologist and leader in the organizing effort. “We’ve been trying to make our voices heard since last year. They didn’t believe we had a majority on our side and refused to recognize us even after a majority of us signed union cards. But now we feel vindicated.”
Fontaine added that her coworkers feel a sense of relief after being undervalued compared to other unionized professionals at Saint Vincent. She said a lot of technicians are struggling with their own medical costs and are ready to get to work to negotiate a contract.
Saint Vincent is owned by Tenet Healthcare, which makes more than $15 billion in annual revenue. The hospital’s unionized nurses recently settled a contract with management, retaining their strong health insurance. But the technicians have been subjected to substandard health insurance which has left many of them buried in medical bills, facing debt and heavy workloads.
“Working as a health care professional, I feel I should be able to afford health care for my family and myself. That’s why I voted yes for Teamster representation,” said Eric Azevedo, an OR technician.
Saint Vincent technicians can only use their health insurance at the hospital, or face high deductibles. This limits treatment options by barring workers from seeking medical care outside of their workplace. Technicians are also seeking fairness in staffing levels, wage increases, retirement benefits and equal treatment.
“When we started this campaign on behalf of the Saint Vincent technicians, we knew this was a strong group of dedicated health care professionals who deeply needed union representation,” said Michael Hogan, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 170. “We are pleased that the workers stuck together and made the right choice for their future. We look forward to negotiating a strong contract worthy of the hard work these technicians contribute every day to Saint Vincent Hospital.”
“This is a great committee of workers who held strong throughout the organizing drive,” said Teamsters Local 170 organizer Paul Stuart. “These folks worked tirelessly and were very dedicated to the goal of winning representation. It’s been an honor to work with such a strong committee of workers.”
Last month after a majority of the technicians expressed support for joining the Teamsters by signing union cards, the workers marched on the office of hospital CEO Steve MacLauchlan to request recognition of their chosen union. After MacLauchlan refused, Teamsters Local 170 filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board, requesting an election, which was held on April 29.
Prior to the vote, hospital management attempted to sway technicians against Teamster representation by holding mandatory anti-union meetings. The technicians, however, maintained strong unity through their organizing committee and communication over social media.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.