Law firm says it sent cease & desist letter to Asante over union meetings

MEDFORD, Ore. – SEIU Local 49, a union representing more than 15,000 healthcare workers, aims to represent Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center employees.

After hearing that news, the law firm with the union said, Asante sent notices and emails to employees requiring them to meet about possible unionization.

“Throughout the pandemic before and after, it just feels like now is the time,” an emergency services technician at Asante Nathan Ostovar said.

Over 1,000 employees at Asante RRMC plan to unionize, according to SEIU Local 49.

Previously, we told you 250 employees at the hospital were planning to make the move.

Now, that number has grown significantly.

“It’s massive,” Ostovar said. “To organize a thousand people organically, having conversations, co-worker to co-worker peer-to-peer, it’s taken time but we’re making connections.”

According to SEIU, the Asante workers come from a wide range of departments including intensive care and medical oncology.

SEIU says the main reasons workers are organizing is to get safe staffing, affordable health insurance and competitive wages.

Ostovar said the movement gained steam late last year.

“Over the years, individuals have tried to have their needs met individually and if those needs had been met, we probably wouldn’t be here,” he said. “And so it’s about collectively, no longer ask for, but collectively demand better for ourselves, our patients and our community.”

A different Asante staff member said this letter was sent to Asante, requesting them to cease and desist, after attorney Jacob Metzger, representing the union, claims Asante sent emails and placed notices in the hospital directing workers to attend mandatory meetings about the company’s perspective on union representation.

The Seattle-based law firm declined an interview, but confirmed the letter’s authenticity.

In a statement the law firm said:

“A super majority of workers at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center (ARMC) have filed a petition for an election with the NLRB that will determine whether they wish to join a union.

In response, Asante sent emails and placed postings in the hospital directing workers to attend “mandatory” meetings about Asante’s perspective regarding union representation. Oregon law gives workers the right to decline to attend or participate in any employer sponsored meeting with the primary purpose of communicating the employer’s opinion about political matters, including the decision to join a union. O.R.S. §§ 659.785, 659.780(1)(5).

After getting questions from workers regarding these “mandatory meetings”, SEIU Local 49 or (the Union) determined that a cease-and-desist letter was warranted to ensure that Asante is aware of Oregon law and complies with Oregon law moving forward.”

The firm cites an Oregon law that says workers are given the right to decline to attend employer meetings with quote – “of communicating the employer’s opinion about political matters, including the decision to join a union.”

Asante sending us this statement Wednesday.

“Asante is aware of the NLRB petitions and looks forward to employees having the ability to vote in a secret ballot election conducted by the NLRB.

Asante continues to comply with the law as it goes through this process.

Asante has not yet received any alleged cease and desist letter at this moment.

Asante believes it is vitally important employees make a well-informed decision in preparing to cast their ballots in the NLRB election.

Asante will honor the results of the federally conducted secret ballot election.”

SEIU said they are awaiting Asante’s response to filing for a union election before they can proceed with an election date.

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NBC5 News reporter Zachary Larsen grew up in Surprise, Arizona. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. At ASU, Zack interned at Arizona Sports 98.7FM and Softball America. During his Junior year, Zack joined the ASU Sports Bureau. He covered the Fiesta Bowl, the Phoenix Open and major basketball tournaments. Zack enjoys working out, creative writing, music, and rooting for his ASU Sun Devils.
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