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Sisters of St. Josephs it's time to make peace with your workers

by: Julia Rosen

Tue Jul 22, 2008 at 17:13:15 PM PDT

It is a dirty little secret, but often times the more virulently anti-union employers are religious orders that run health systems.  Such is the situation with the Sisters of St. Joseph who run the St. Joseph Health System.  They have been resisting the efforts of their service employees to join SEIU-UHW for the past three years.

SEIU-UHW is organizing a series of events this week in support of their organizing efforts.  Today Delores Huerta of the United Farm Workers wrote a HuffPost piece on the struggle.

This week I'm joining St. Joseph Health System workers, Attorney General Jerry Brown, Father Eugene Boyle, actor Ed Begley Jr, and community and religious leaders to call upon the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange to make peace with their workers.

For decades, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange have fought for justice for California's workers. In the summer of 1973, they marched in solidarity with Cesar Chavez and farm workers during the brutal Grape Strike. I witnessed the Sisters putting their personal safety at risk. They walked picket lines and even went to jail with more than 3500 striking farm workers. I was inspired by the Sisters' commitment to stand with the farm workers, even in the face of violent provocation.

But now, these same sisters are refusing to show their own workers the same justice they once fought for.

Flip it for more and a video.

Julia Rosen :: Sisters of St. Josephs it's time to make peace with your workers
When I write that the nuns are resisting the organizing, I mean it.  They have been using heavy-handed and it appears illegal tactics to stop their employees from forming a union.  Workers have been threatened that they will lose their jobs is they continue to push for a union.  Delores Huerta writes:

Public records show that SJHS has hired some of the most notorious union-busting firms to fight their employees. Meanwhile, government officials have cited SJHS for violating its employees' basic labor rights, including illegally firing, spying on, and intimidating workers who want to form a union. These heavy-handed tactics leave workers feeling threatened, intimidated and disregarded.

How can the Sisters support farm workers' efforts to form a union, but fight their own employees for seeking this same basic right? Is there such a big difference between the people who feed us and the people who heal us? Clearly, there is not.

It is great to see a community coming together to support the workers, including Huerta nad Jerry Brown.  More importantly at least IMHO, 20 former members of the Sisters of St. Joseph's wrote a letter to the current members, urging them to find peace with their service employees.  Here is a video of the delivery of that letter to the nuns.  No, they did not come receive the letter personally.

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It's a bit awkward (0.00 / 0)
In terms of the court of public opinion, to be anti-nuns. But this is a fight for fundamental justice that needs to be won.

Workers are ready for Peace... and Justice (0.00 / 0)
Hi, my name is Bob Alcala, and I've worked at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, Ca. (and part of the St. Joseph Health System) since 1966.  I'd like to thank Mr. O'Connor for his support for our efforts to gain a stronger voice for workers throughout SJHS.  

As hospital workers, my co-workers and I take our responsibility for our patients' well being very seriously.  That is why we are trying to form a union, so that we can have meaningful input in to how we do our work.  We used to have that when I first started working at St. Jude's.  Back then we used to work much more closely with the sisters who used to be very visible in the hospital.??Recently however, things have changed.    

Managers and supervisors have created an intimidating and fearful environment.  So much so, that when my co-workers want to speak up about workplace issues they prefer to stay silent to avoid any retaliation from their supervisors.  And when we tried to improve our compensation to match the increased workloads we are all under, a former manager of mine said we "would have to walk on water" before that would happen.   Many of us feel as though we are a second-class workforce in management's eyes.  ??

Given their past support for workers' rights that Senora Dolores Huerta spoke to, the Sisters' response has obviously been very disappointing.  But, in trying to organize our union we are merely trying to breath life in to the values of Dignity, Service, Excellence and Justice that guide this hospital's mission.  

??- Bob Alcala, St. Jude Medical Center (Fullerton, Ca.)

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