Taken from The Asbury Park Press
By Michael L. Diamond
October 22, 2020
More than 1,000 housekeepers, technicians and other service workers at Jersey Shore University Medical Center will wrap up voting this week in an election to decide whether to join a labor union.
Workers supporting the bid to join the Health Professionals and Allied Employees union said they have been considering an organizing campaign for several months, but the pandemic made it more urgent.
“I want it for better working conditions, better equipment where we can protect ourselves and others, a better workload,” said Kim Robinson, 61, an Ocean Township resident who has worked in the dietary food and nutrition department for three years.
The voting, which has been conducted by mail-in ballots, ends Friday. The results likely won’t be known until after the U.S. election is held Nov. 3.
Jersey Shore University Medical Center’s service workers are voting on whether to join the Health Professional and Allied Employees union.
The organizing campaign at the Neptune hospital is the latest skirmish between its owner, Edison-based Hackensack Meridian Health, and the HPAE union, which also represents 1,300 Jersey Shore University Medical Center nurses.
Representation: A new group of Jersey Shore University Medical Center workers file to join union
It caps what has been an uneasy year.
Nurses were outspoken when the coronavirus swept through the region in March and April about not having enough protective equipment. An emergency room nurse who was a union leader and raised concerns about the lack of PPE was eventually fired.
The company rejected claims that it had put workers’ safety at risk and dismissed the idea that the union leader was fired for voicing fears about his members’ safety.
As the pandemic eased, the company and union in July reached an agreement on a new 3-year contract.
But more labor discord was brewing, this time with service workers such as housekeepers, patient care technicians, food service workers, transporters.
“There were a lot of issues that they came to us with,” said Debbie White, president of HPAE. “As the pandemic set in, quickly their focus turned into health and safety. They saw the nurses had a mechanism to solve the issues in the workplace.”