Union bails out of PMC

By Buck Traxler, I-O Editor

Almost two years to the date of having union representation at the Pondera Medical Center (PMC), it has become a thing of the past.

On June 26, 2008 in a close vote of 28-26, for the first time, a portion of the Pondera Medical Center was going to be represented by a union. In part it affected certified nursing assistants (CNAs), housekeepers, cooks, laundry aide’s, janitors and ward clerks.

Mark Jones, who was the Director of Operations at the time, now the CEO, commented, “This was our first union contract and we had many items to discuss and agree to. It was going to be a time consuming process.”

He noted that the hospital expended over $100,000 in legal fees, “That’s a lot of money and didn’t include salaries for meetings and negotiations.”

He went on to add, “Imagine what we could have done for employees and for benefits with that money.”

According to Jones, a petition signed by 31 of the union members was filed seeking decertification in the first week of June 2010.

Last month the regional director, Richard Ahearn, wrote a letter to the PMC saying in part, “After having been advised that the union was disclaiming interest in the unit, the petitioner requested withdrawal of the petition…” Union representation was officially revoked on Nov. 17.

Jones pointed out that he would give credit for them (the union) being a voice to that group of employees and made the facility stand up and take notice.

He also recalled that 2008 had been a dismal year for the hospital as they missed their budget by close to $1 million, and while that has been turned around to where a profit or break even line will been seen, it was tough negotiating wages (then).

“We always strive to be fair to our employees and fiscally responsible,” he said, adding, “We have to operate within our means and we believe our employees understand that.”

“The moral of the story is be careful,” he said.

Kim Bender who works at the PMC commented that, “A lot of people were happy they are out and I’m one of them.”

She noted that the union was not returning calls and a petition was signed asking to get out of the union and that a letter of “decertification” had been received.