Catholic hospitals, unions reach accord

The Feerick Center in Fierce Healthcare, June 23, 2009

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For years, Catholic hospitals and unions have faced off, with workers claiming that the hospitals have unfairly and aggressively resisted union organizing efforts. The unions have complained bitterly about these tactics, which they contend contradict Catholic doctrines on social justice.

This week, however, Catholic leaders and labor unions have formed an agreement that should resolve the tensions between the two sides. The agreement, based on Catholic teachings, recognizes the right of workers to "freely and fairly" determine whether they'll join a union. The deal impacts roughly 600 Catholic hospitals employing about 600,000 workers. An estimated 15 percent of these workers already belong to unions.

The agreement has several basic principles, including an understanding that both employers and unions will not harass, threaten, intimidate or coerce workers. Hospital mangers agreed not to using union-busting techniques, and the unions agreed not to publicly attack Catholic healthcare organizations during recruitment drives.