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Saturday, November 30, 2013

UPDATED: Lawrence & Memorial strike turns into an illegal lock-out

Management "lock outs" union workers 
By Will Collette

UPDATE: according to the New London Day, despite the union's offer to unconditionally return to work without a contract tonight, L&M management refused to let workers return. The hospital maintains minimal operations using 125 scabs hired through a Florida temp agency that specializes in strikebreakers.

According to the Day, management deactivated the badges of the strikers when the strike began and will not re-activate them until an agreement is reached. The union has charged the lock out is illegal and is seeking an injunction against management's actions.

After yesterday's successful union rally outside the hospital, Lawrence & Memorial brass returned to the bargaining table to resume negotiations. For four hours.

Westerly Hospital's new owners stepped away from the table saying they wanted to discuss and try to more fully understand the unions' position that they want job security - that when L&M transfers hospital jobs to one of its subsidiaries, the worker holding that job wants to follow the work.

But L&M brass wants to use the illegal practice of "double-breasting" (of shifting union jobs to a non-union "alter ego" company) to eliminate union workers and break their union. The National Labor Relations Board will be bringing the hospital management before a law judge on this unfair labor practice charge. Click here to read the actual charges being brought by the NLRB

The union announced its intention to limit its job action to only four days to protest L&M's unfair labor practices (ULPs). This is called a ULP Strike. Union workers plan to show up for work tonight at 11 PM to go back on the job.

However, management is sticking to earlier threats that it will not allow union workers to return - i.e. they will stage a "lock out" - and will continue to run the hospital with 125 strike-breakers ("scabs") who are being paid far more than the people they are replacing, perhaps as much as $200 an hour.

The union filed a new NLRB charge against L&M charging that its lock-out threat represents a form of illegal intimidation. Click here to read that charge.

Right now, those 125 scabs are replacing 750 striking nurses and technicians so I guess the hospital can afford to pay the scabs five times as much and still break even, provided the hospital revenues don't slump.

It seems to me that the real issue in this strike has more to do with power than money, a phenomenon I have seen on a number of campaigns I've worked on. The L&M CEO Bruce Cummings was just elected head of the Connecticut Hospital Association and has become a right-wing darling for his stand against the hospital's unions, not to mention his devious - and illegal - tactics that are currently subject to enforcement action by the NLRB.

This strike was provoked by Cummings' intransigence and, if the strike turns into a lock-out at 11 PM tonight, it will be because Cummings places more value on maintaining total control than on either a fair deal with his employees, labor peace or proper care for L&M's patients.

The way his negotiators ended last night's talks after only four hours was a bad sign. And management's announcement that they’re still committed to the lock-out leads me to conclude that’s the only way to relieve Cummings’ testosterone build-up to keep his nuts from exploding.