Catholic bishops, labor agree on balloting guidelines

The Feerick Center in Modern Healthcare, June 23, 2009

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The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has released a set of guidelines negotiated with some of the largest labor unions in healthcare intended to ease the process of voting to form new bargaining units at more than 600 Roman Catholic hospitals in the U.S.

The document, “Respecting the Just Rights of Workers: Guidance and Options for Catholic Health Care and Unions,” encourages employers and union organizers to abandon tactics that cause strife and misinformation in the run-up to union balloting. Rather, the bishops urged Catholic healthcare employers to recognize that a worker’s right to decide whether to unionize is a fundamental principle of social justice recognized by the church.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, said that the agreement was not specifically intended to cause more new bargaining units to form at Catholic hospitals. “I think in some cases it will go one way and in other cases it will go the other. It’s up to the workers,” McCarrick said in a conference call with reporters today. The agreement, which was first reported in the June 22 Modern Healthcare magazine (Print subscription required), comes as labor accords between healthcare providers and large parent unions such as the Service Employees International Union are on the rise. The agreement was the result of years of negotiations with the Catholic Health Association, the AFL-CIO, SEIU and the American Federation of Teachers.