JHMI Office of Communications and Public Affairs

March 27, 2001
MEDIA CONTACT : Gary Stephenson
PHONE: (410)955-5384
E-MAIL: gstephenson@jhmi.edu

Negotiations Update

As a wise man once said, "There are lies, there are damn lies, and then there are statistics."

Once again, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is flooding the press with misleading information.

Example: William R. Brody is President of The Johns Hopkins University and is speaking today in honor of the University’s 125th anniversary. The Union notice says he’s President of The Johns Hopkins Hospital and is speaking in honor of the 125th anniversary of the Hospital.

Example: The average monthly pension for Union members who retired from The Johns Hopkins Hospital between January 1998 and July 1999 is $446.29. The Union claims that figure is $283. FYI, the $446.29 average includes people with as few as eight years of service, and half of the total number who retired during the years selected by the Union left before age 65.

We are saddened that Union leadership persists in trying to turn the contract negotiations into a media circus. If the Union had put as much good faith effort in negotiating a fair contract for its members as it has in trying to obtain media coverage by staging photo opportunities, we already might have concluded a fair and equitable contract.

We are ready and willing to resume meaningful contract negotiations with the Union as soon as its leaders evidence their willingness to put the concerns and needs of their local members ahead of their national agenda. Our workers deserve this.

Related Web site:

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/press/2001/MARCH/010327B.htm:   Human Resources responds to latest Union demonstration

FACTS ABOUT UNION NEGOTIATIONS AT THE JOHNS HOPKINS HOSPITAL

By now you are aware that The Johns Hopkins Hospital is engaged in protracted contract negotiations with District 1199E-DC, SEIU. The Hospital is disappointed that the Union has chosen to mount a public relations campaign plagued with factual misrepresentations against Johns Hopkins University, rather than focusing its resources and attention toward achieving a negotiated settlement with the Hospital.

To set the record straight, Johns Hopkins University is a separate legal entity from The Johns Hopkins Hospital and does not set or otherwise control the labor relations decisions or policies of the Hospital. Regrettably the Union apparently prefers to inappropriately interfere in the affairs of a neutral party rather than bargain in good faith with the Hospital.

On March 15, the Union conducted its second one-day strike against the Hospital without providing its members with the opportunity to vote on the Hospital's counteroffer. (The first 1-day strike was on Jan. 31.) The Union is supposedly fighting for higher wages and benefits, but instead of sticking to economic issues of great importance to its members, we believe Union officials actually are preoccupied with a national campaign to organize more workers.

While our differences continue, the most important concern is that our current workers are treated fairly. Here are some facts about this dispute which the public and our employees are entitled to know:

Pension

The Hopkins retirement plan provides a well-funded program with excellent guaranteed benefits for its long-term employees. For example, the typical Union worker retiring at age 65 with 35 years of service could have income replaced ( together with Social Security benefits) at about 85% of the average of the employee's highest 5 years earnings. Unlike many other plans, the Hopkins Hospital pension plan is a defined benefit plan that is 100% employer funded and guarantees the earned benefit for life. The pension plan is not vulnerable to the kinds of stock market downturns now occurring.

Some of the Union literature quotes very low average monthly pension dollar amounts. These are distortions of statistics. Remember that the pension amount depends on many variables: years of service (perhaps the employee only worked here a short time); early retirement (employees who begin collecting pension prior to age 65 do not get the full amount); and spousal benefits (an employee who wants his/her spouse to receive benefits after his/her death also takes a reduced amount).

Wages

Three years ago, when other regional hospitals were laying off workers, the Union and The Johns Hopkins Hospital agreed on wage rates that were reasonable to both parties at the time. We believe that it=s now time to increase those wages and have an offer on the table to raise salaries 3% per year for each of the three years of a new contract (9% over the life of the contract). We made this offer despite the fact that the State commission regulating hospital rates authorized us to raise rates only 2.5%.

Because the Union has protracted the negotiations, and our workers are almost four months overdue for their annual raises, we have offered to give the first year=s 3% raise immediately, while continuing to negotiate all proposals. The Union rejected this offer.

The Union encompasses a substantial mix of job classifications and skill levels. Under our proposal, the average Union worker will make $10.69 per hour, plus benefits, and the highest wage rate will be $20.25 per hour, or more than $40,000 a year.

We=ve also offered to raise the probationary wage immediately. If the Union would agree to our offer, even probationary workers at the lowest job classification would be making $8.20 as a "hire rate" and then move to $8.45 as a "job rate" and to $8.70 as the 1-year rate.

Training

We have extensive training programs to allow workers to move from entry-level jobs into more skilled professions. Approximately eighty percent of our Union employees move up into higher pay levels within two years. Only a handful of employees have remained in entry-level positions for a long period of time. Tuition payments for these training programs are fully paid in advance by the Hospital.

The Union has asked the Hospital to contribute money to a Multi-Employer Consortium to train union workers. We set aside money for a training fund in partnership with the Union, and have offered to increase that fund significantly, but we want to spend Hopkins money to train only Hopkins employees. We don=t think it makes sense for us to spend money for employees at other hospitals that don=t provide significant training funds to the extent that the Hospital does.

Access to Non-Bargaining Unit Employees

The Union has demanded access to our employees who are not members of its Bargaining Unit; wants the Hospital to consent to a gag rule preventing us from discussing the pros and cons of unionization with these employees, and insists that the non unionized employees be deprived of their right to a secret ballot election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board to determine their preference as to union representation.

By law, we have the right to discuss with our employees the relevant issues regarding union representation and the employees deserve a secret ballot vote on unionization. We believe it would be wrong for us to bargain away our employees rights on these matters. The Union has refused to allow its membership to vote on our full contract offers and has conducted Astrike votes@ that are not secret and do not allow for a Ano@ vote. We obviously cannot trust its unilateral conduct of voting or other action related to interaction with all of our employees.

Conclusion

The Johns Hopkins Hospital has been a stable employer. Thankfully, we have managed to have no major layoffs in the last few years. The number of Union jobs rose from about 1,400 when we negotiated the last contract three years ago to more than 1,600 today.

We remain committed to the City of Baltimore and especially the community of East Baltimore.

We believe we have made a fair offer for our workers, while limited by the constraints in a state with highly regulated hospital rates B and no restraints on many other escalating costs.

We are willing to remain at the negotiations table and to continue to bargain "in good faith" regarding wages and benefits. But we cannot bargain with ourselves.

Our workers are due for a wage increase. We=ve offered to give it to them. The Union has rejected our offer.


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