In response to a series of Facebook posts and letters to the editor from SEIU Local 199 members, Monte Neitzel, Greater Regional Medical Center Chief Executive Officer, read a prepared statement to the GRMC board of trustees at its regularly scheduled meeting Monday.
“We’ve seen some rhetoric from the union and I would like to make a response,” Neitzel said.
SEIU members took to Facebook Tuesday calling for a boycott of the GRMC board meeting.
In the post, a SEIU representative claims hospital administration are “refusing to let caregivers speak” at the public meeting. They feel the “dangerous and anti-democratic decision” of being blocked from speaking to publicly elected trustees blocks the “critically important perspective” of some hospital caregivers.
Neitzel started his statement with an apology to the board and employees for what he believes to be “intimidating treatment directed at them by SEIU.”
“The statements that have been made in the newspaper through letters to the editor and social media posts are false,” he said. “SEIU using patient care as a scare tactic to communicate their concerns with the change in law is repulsive.”
SEIU said they called for the boycott after their request to speak during a public forum at the board meeting was denied by Neitzel’s assistant.
“By silencing its own caregivers on Monday night, GRMC is choosing conflict over cooperation,” said Cassie Wilmeth, SEIU Local 199 chapter president and GRMC diet technician and cook.
Wilmeth said the way union members were silenced suggests governance problems at GRMC, a public hospital.
“You might think you contact a clerk in Union County government and simply sign up (to speak),” Wilmeth said. “Instead, you approach the assistant of GRMC CEO Monte Neitzel and ask for permission.”
Wilmeth called for GRMC to be as open and transparent as possible.
“As employees who serve the public, this seems to us like the wrong way to run a public institution,” Wilmeth said.
Neitzel said he found the statements from SEIU to be inappropriate because he claimed SEIU has had many opportunities to negotiate and communicate face-to-face with hospital administration.
“Greater Regional has tried meeting with SEIU on five separate occasions for negotiations,” Neitzel said.
In his statement, Neitzel said a prohibitive practice complaint against SEIU has been filed on behalf of GRMC with the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB).
Neitzel said mediation between SEIU and GRMC has been rescheduled for July 2, and believes a contract will be negotiated in good faith.
Approximately 26 percent of 230 eligible employees are members of the union.
“We’re not talking a large amount of employees that are having concerns,” said Neitzel.
Dave Driskell, GRMC board chairperson, said the growth at GRMC over the years has gone beyond their wildest imaginations.
“Its been built on the backs of the employees from the janitorial staff to the administration,” said Driskell. “You don’t create these numbers with a wand. You create it with people. You create it with diligence. You create it with quality. And, you create it with care. I’ve never been any prouder to be affiliated with an organization in my life. Ever. Period.”
Neitzel applauded the board’s leadership and is looking forward to a resolution.
“I have full confidence in Ms. Reicks and her negotiating team and their abilities to negotiate a contract that is going to be fair to all parties,” said Neitzel.