Hospital staffers vote yes on union

By Robert Weisman
Globe Staff / October 7, 2009

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Nearly 600 workers at Norwood Hospital, ranging from respiratory therapists to housekeepers, will join the Service Employees International Union as the result of an election yesterday.

The vote at Norwood Hospital was 302 to 106, with about 74 percent of the 408 hospital workers who cast ballots opting to join the union. Another 186 eligible workers did not vote in the election.

Norwood became the third hospital in the Caritas Christi Health Care system, based in Boston, to unionize this year. More than 800 employees at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, the flagship of the six-hospital Catholic chain, in April affiliated with the same labor union, Local 1199 of the SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

In June, nearly 500 workers at Caritas Carney Hospital in Dorchester also affiliated with the labor organization. Those votes followed an agreement in January between Caritas Christi and Local 1199 to allow “free and fair’’ elections. The deal restricted managers from lobbying workers to reject the union and prohibited labor leaders from disparaging hospitals in the Caritas health system.

“During these difficult economic times, it’s clear that hospital workers across Massachusetts have made the decision to come together to protect the quality of care they provide, the economic health of their hospitals, and their communities,’’ George Gresham, president of the labor organization, said in a statement last night.

The bargaining unit at Norwood Hospital will represent 594 respiratory therapists, radiology technicians, licensed practical nurses, nurse assistants, pharmacy technicians, paramedics, secretaries, housekeepers, dietary workers, and others.