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Hopkins disrespectful to clerical workers

Imagine if your employer of 35 years called you in to let you know that your job was being "eliminated" and that your work would be shifted to another, slightly different position. But don't worry, they reassure you; you can apply for one of the new positions — that is, if you can pass a few tests, one of which is a "behavioral test" that includes questions like, "If you lost your job, would you consider suicide?" The behavioral test will help them, your employer explains, to decide if you are the right kind of person for the position with the fancy new corporate title.

I imagine most people would be a little shocked, hurt, maybe even angry. Now imagine that your employer isn't some mega-corporation concerned only with the bottom line. Imagine, instead, that your employer is one of the world's most respected nonprofit institutions, that it's based right here in Baltimore, that it's your city's largest recipient of nonprofit property tax subsidies, and that it claims its core values are "integrity," "diversity" and "respect."

Right now, 160 of my fellow clerical workers at Johns Hopkins Hospital and I are facing this very situation. That's why we're coming together to call on Johns Hopkins to live up to those core values as we upgrade our hospital's medical records system.

We have nothing against innovation or progress. In fact, we've embraced innovation throughout our careers at Hopkins. Many of us have been dealing with digital records and information-age technology for more than two decades now. Change is nothing new to us; we work in health care, and we're proud of being adaptive.

That's why it's so disappointing that Hopkins has failed to seek our input as this process has moved forward. It's even more disappointing to hear Johns Hopkins' HR people pay lip service to our loyalty while doing everything short of showing us the door.

Many of us have dedicated our entire working lives to Johns Hopkins Hospital. Together, we have more than 1,500 years of combined clerical experience at the hospital. And yet now, many of us are being advised that we might be better suited for the housekeeping or dietary department.

But this is about more than just 160 jobs, and the 160 lives and families that will be disrupted. When a nonprofit institution is founded with a mission of community service, as Johns Hopkins was in Baltimore, it has a responsibility to workers and communities, particularly when its remarkable rise has been facilitated by land grants, tax breaks and other generous subsidies that our city has provided.

We believe workers have earned first right of refusal and only after we have turned down a position should it be open to outside candidates, since it is virtually the same work we've been doing all along at Hopkins. We want the opportunity for training that's needed, and we believe these jobs should remain in the union that Coretta Scott King helped us win some 40 years ago.

If Hopkins fails to respect workers and fails to honor its commitment to our communities, the working families of our city will take a huge step backward. That's not something Baltimore can afford, especially in these economic times.

Barbara Moseley is a clerical associate who's been with Johns Hopkins Hospital for 37 years. She is also a member of 1199 SEIU. Her email is

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