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Judge rules UPMC's email policy violated labor law

| Thursday, April 25, 2013, 12:51 p.m.

UPMC violated federal labor law by preventing employees from using the hospital network's computer systems for union-organizing activities, a Pittsburgh administrative law judge ruled.

Judge David Goldman ordered UPMC to end a policy meant to keep workers from using email and social media websites to communicate about efforts to create a union at several of its hospitals in Oakland and Shadyside.

“Having found that respondents have engaged in certain unfair labor practices, I find that they must be ordered to cease and desist,” Goldman wrote in his decision.

The case stems from a complaint the National Labor Relations Board filed against UPMC in December, alleging the hospital giant engaged in numerous unfair labor practices. UPMC settled with the NLRB in February on most of the charges but sought to have the email and computer network policy upheld.

SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, a labor union seeking to organize UPMC workers, filed the original charges that led to the NLRB's complaint. In a written statement provided by the union, UPMC workers hailed Goldman's ruling.

“The judge's decision confirms the ‘chilling effect' that we have all been experiencing,” said Leslie Poston, a unit secretary at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital. “UPMC should stop trying to intimidate us and start working with its employees to improve our jobs and our hospital.”

UPMC is “reviewing the ruling,” spokeswoman Gloria Kreps said.

The SEIU filed separate charges against UPMC this month alleging the health system has not lived up to terms of its settlement with the NLRB and continues to engage in unfair labor practices.

An investigation of those charges is ongoing, said Robert Chester, the agency's regional director in Pittsburgh.

“There are a lot of allegations,” he said.

Alex Nixon is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7928 .

or anixon@tribweb.com.

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