Chase Brexton Health Care's board agrees to collective bargaining with new union

Management and workers at Chase Brexton Health Care expect to begin collective bargaining soon.

After a vote last week among workers at Chase Brexton Health Care to form a union, the health care provider's board of directors said Friday that it has voted to accept the outcome and move forward with collective bargaining.

"We recognize the past few weeks have been difficult for our organization and that we have to work to rebuild trust with our employees, patients, and communities," Chase Brexton said in a statement. "We will fulfill our promise to address the issues and concerns that were raised as part of this process so that we become a stronger organization."

The union now representing the company's employees, 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, says it will continue to pursue a complaint it filed with the National Labor Relations Board over the firing of five Chase Brexton managers during the organizing campaign. The union contends that Chase Brexton used the firings to intimidate other employees and dissuade them from unionizing. Chase Brexton denied the charge.

The NLRB did not respond to a request for comment.

Chase Brexton began as a clinic for gay men in the 1970s. Although its local health centers still cater to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, it has expanded services to many other patients through the Affordable Care Act. It is headquartered in Baltimore's Mount Vernon neighborhood and has facilities in Glen Burnie, Columbia, Randallstown, Easton and at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

It served nearly 10,000 Medicaid recipients last year, according to the state health department.

Chase Brexton employees voted 87-9 on Aug. 25 to join the union. Workers complained of longer work days, heavier work loads and reduced training, and said they wanted more say in decision making at Chase Brexton.

Before the vote, management and pro-union employees accused each other of engaging in unfair labor practices. Chase Brexton filed a complaint against the union alleging unfair labor practices and asking the board to block the unionization vote. The labor board rejected the motion.

Workers and their supporters protested outside Chase Brexton's headquarters in Baltimore, and state and local lawmakers wrote letters in support of the employees. More than 1,600 supporters signed a petition on Change.org asking Chase Brexton CEO Richard Larison to rehire the employees and support unionization.

Brian Owens, a lead SEIU organizer, said he expected contract negotiations to begin soon.

"I think it's good, and it's what should have happened two months ago," he said of management's willingness to bargain. "It's good they recognize that things need to change. Hopefully, we can be partners with management to fix some of the problems at Chase Brexton."

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

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