The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is attempting to force hospitals in California and Oregon to allow it to organize workers by using ballot initiatives that would cap executive pay and charges to patients, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. The SEIU has said it would drop the referenda if hospitals agreed to work with the union. In other words, the unions are using democracy as a form of extortion.
These thuggish tactics come right from the Chicago playbook. A decade ago, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) tried to force a Catholic hospital in the suburb of Evanston, the Resurrection St. Francis Hospital, to unionize. When the hospital refused, citing costs, the AFSCME placed a referendum on the Evanston ballot calling for the hospital’s tax-exempt non-profit status to be reconsidered.
The union was backed by Chicago-area Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), who sent out mailings endorsing the ballot initiative (Full disclosure: I ran against Schakowsky in 2010). The unions and the Democrats did not care that they might force St. Francis to close its doors, denying medical care to many of the poor patients in the area who relied on the hospital. They just wanted power–in Evanston and at hospitals elsewhere.
As Crain’s noted at the time:
“‘It’s another way of trying to change the balance of power,’ says Cheryl Maranto, an associate professor of management at Marquette University in Milwaukee who has written on labor issues. Even if the union doesn’t successfully organize at Resurrection, it may gain leverage, she says. ‘Next time AFSCME goes to a hospital, they say, ‘Give us our neutrality agreement or we’ll do the same to you.”’
In the end, the referendum failed–very narrowly–after tearing the liberal Evanston community apart. Now the SEIU is trying the same tactic in California and Oregon. The main victims of their intimidation tactics will be the patients these hospitals serve. But the SEIU doesn’t care. It has pensions to fund and politicians to pay. It wants more members and power. It does not care who suffers–nor do the Democrats who take its money.