5:09 PM Eastern - Monday, June 22, 2009

Catholic Bishops and Labor Unions Announce Agreement on Respecting the Rights of Healthcare Workers

Today, SEIU joined the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Catholic Health Association and labor unions including the AFL-CIO, AFSCME and AFT to announce a landmark set of guiding principles on respecting the rights of workers in the Catholic Healthcare system.

The announcement is the result of a 10-year dialogue among the groups aimed at finding common ground on the rights of workers to choose whether to form a union. It builds on a previous report released by Catholic Bishops presenting key tenets of Catholic social teaching to guide and inform Catholic health care and ensure fairness and respect throughout healthcare institutions. The new report, "Respecting the Just Rights of Workers: Guidance and Options for Catholic Healthcare and Unions," renews the Bishops' call to Catholic health care employers to support the rights of workers to choose to join a union free from intimidation or harassment.

The guiding principles suggest seven key principles for appropriate conduct to help ensure that employees are able to make an informed decision without undue influence or pressure from either side. The document also makes the recommendation that unions and employers put specific ways they plan on ensuring appropriate conduct in writing. Principles in "Respecting the Just Rights of Workers: Guidance and Options for Catholic Healthcare and Unions," include:

* Respect. No negative campaigning by either side.
* Equal access to information by the employer and the union representatives
* No biased statements that would give misleading impressions about the advantages and disadvantages of joining a union.
* No aggressive or coercive behavior.
* A fair and timely process.
* Meaningful enforcement of a "local agreement" that would be set at the beginning of the organizing campaign to outline specific rules and measures.
* Honoring employee decisions, with no attempt to reverse the outcome of the workers' decision on whether or not to unionize.
"At a moment when some in the business community are focused on diminishing the voice of workers, the Bishops are standing up for what is fair and what is just: that it is up to workers--not bishops, hospital managers, or union leaders--to choose to join a union," said SEIU Healthcare Chair Dennis Rivera in a statement today.

The Catholic Church historically has had the courage to support the rights of workers because it's the fair and just thing to do; we believe Congress should do the same. These principles will serve as recommendations for nearly 600,000 workers in almost 600 Catholic hospitals nationwide.

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