News Story

Hospital Union Resorts to Intimidation Tactics Against Workers Who Opt Out

AFSCME local joins other unions bullying members who exercise their rights

Kollin VanDenHeuvel is a college student in a 90-day temporary position that offers no benefits at Flint's Hurley Medical Center. So he said he saw little advantage to joining the union.

In response, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1603 union posted his name on a list at the hospital to serve "notice" that he exercised his rights under state law and opted out of the union.

VanDenHeuvel and three other workers names were posted on a bulletin board in a public area near the hospital cafeteria. Michigan's right-to-work law no longer requires workers to pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment.

"I believe it is posted as intimidation to try to get others to question us members [on] why we chose to opt out," VanDenHeuvel said.

Sondra Ellison also was on the list. She had been a member of the union for 27 years before opting out.

"It was very upsetting to me because it was such a public place," Ellison said. "It was just there for anyone who just came in."

Ellison said she thought it was done to intimidate others from leaving the union. She said she went to the hospital administration and asked to have the list taken down and it was.

"My employer should be able to protect my privacy at least from the general public," Ellison said.

Another worker who opted out of the union, Shannon Leonard, has worked at the medical center for six years. She said the union did not help her even when she was bumped out of jobs and moved to part-time positions.

"The union has never helped me. [I] always had to fight my way back to full time," Leonard said. "This is the reason behind choice along with the financial need to save the money on dues. I do feel that it was unnecessary to post our names on a board for all to see. I could have understood the post being present in the union office for the officials to see, but they actually posted it in the hallway to our cafeteria where not only employees could view it, but the public also. I don't appreciate my full name being disclosed like this."

The Greater Flint AFL-CIO Labor Council, which represents the AFSCME Hurley Medical Center Employees Local 1603, didn't respond to a request for comment.

The Hurley Medical Center released a statement saying it was not getting involved in union business.

"While Hurley Medical Center is always appropriately concerned with legal rights pertaining to workforce members and issues, the administration of Hurley Medical Center does not get involved in internal union business," the statement read.

Unions from around the state have been posting the names of workers who opt out. The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 referred to 19 workers from across the state as "freeloaders" in its newsletter that it also published online.

A local affiliate of the Michigan Education Association in the Upper Peninsula did the same thing with 16 employees who opted out.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.