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NLRB considering union's latest complaint against ACMH Hospital in East Franklin

| Friday, July 24, 2015, 12:41 a.m.

A discrimination charge filed against ACMH Hospital in East Franklin last month could be joining an earlier union complaint at a trial in front of a federal judge in Pittsburgh in September.

An August trial on the earlier charge alleging hospital officials acted illegally by taking self-scheduling duties away from workers has been moved to Sept. 2. The National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of the union in that complaint, meaning the hospital, to avoid trial, would have to restore the self-scheduling system for workers before the court date.

In the case filed last month, the complaint alleges the hospital discriminated against workers by denying pay raises and cutting shifts of anyone participating in union activities. The union's complaint says the hospital prohibited workers from passing out handbills and picketing on ACMH property.

If the latest complaint is found to have merit, it will be consolidated with the earlier charge for trial, said NLRB attorney Suzanne Bernett.

“Since this is the second complaint we are investigating,we thought it would be best to postpone the union's first hearing,” Bernett said. “That way we could consolidate them into one complaint and hearing.”

The complaints were filed by technicians and licensed practical nurses who formed a union at the hospital about a year ago. Bernett expects the board will rule if the hospital discriminated against the employees by the end of the month. If it again rules in favor of the union, the case will be moved to trial.

Curtis Dahn, spokesman for the union representing the 123 workers at the hospital, said he views the decision to consolidate the hearings as a good sign.

“The NLRB is still investigating the latest charge, but scheduling a trial is a signal that there are merits to our allegations,” Dahn said. “In our opinion, it's a good sign that the hospital is going to be held accountable for their illegal behavior.”

Anne Remaley, the hospital's vice president of human relations, did not respond to emails or phone calls Thursday seeking comment about the union's latest complaint. Remaley in earlier statements characterized the union's activities as “a way to enhance their bargaining position.”

Negotiations between the union and hospital administration started shortly after the workers organized in June 2014. The two sides met Thursday morning for a bargaining session but made little progress, Dahn said.

“The hospital wasted a good portion of the session trying to talk us into withdrawing the charges, but that is not something we're interested in doing,” Dahn said. “We hope the charges motivate the hospital to bargain in good faith and reach an agreement.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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