Bargain, already

Enloe can’t cover its ears any longer.

This week, an impressive coalition rallied along The Esplanade in solidarity with the two unions that represent the nonprofit hospital’s workers. Besides the California Nurses Association and SEIU-UHW West calling on Enloe to negotiate contracts, there were leaders from the Chico Unified Teachers’ Association, the California Faculty Association at Chico State and at least two other employee groups. Two city councilmembers, including the mayor of Chico, stood across the street from the hospital, using bullhorns to cheer Enloe workers on as drivers in passing cars honked their support.

If Enloe administrators think that’s not a strong voice, their PR problem is worse than we thought.

Despite repeated legal rulings to the contrary, Enloe continues to fight the results of the election that voted in representation to some classifications of employees. In an arrogant display of hypocrisy, management insists on challenging the close vote it lost, while letting stand the close vote it won. The hospital says it’s doing so out of fairness to the workers who don’t want a union, but how much time, money and community unrest is it worth to push for what the National Labor Relations Board and an administrative law judge have already said is a done deal?

And what about the nurses? The CNA’s contract with Enloe expired Jan. 14, and the sides have agreed to call in a federal mediator to help reach agreement and prevent a strike. The hospital has coughed up raises to nurses, if only to keep up with the local market and combat the well-publicized nursing shortage. But there are still concerns about working conditions and patient safety issues, including staffing ratios. Both employee groups also want better health insurance.

We don’t necessarily agree with everything the unions have done. Where will the SEIU be a year from now when the workers they encourage to go out on a limb are blacklisted from Enloe and forced to find lower-paying jobs elsewhere? And the union does a great job of making it look like Enloe is in charge of workers who are really employed by the hospital’s subcontractor, Compass. But virtually every gain that’s been made for workers in modern times—from the 40-hour work week to establishing minimum wage—has been fought for and secured by organized labor. And when a small-town hospital acts corporate, it earns itself big-city union tactics.

Enloe should rethink its approach, with its $85 million expansion headed to the City Council and an entire community relying on the monopoly hospital for its healthcare needs.

Does Enloe really need any more bad publicity?