Yesterday members of SEIU 1199 picketed my home. Interestingly, the picketing was not intended to influence me at Community General Hospital, where I am CEO. Instead, SEIU seeks to use me to pressure one of Community’s employees who serves on the Board of Iroquois Nursing Home. I have declined to apply the pressure.
Earlier this year SEIU conducted an organizing campaign at Iroquois. Having won its election on March 7, 2008, SEIU is negotiating its first contract – a process that is not apparently proceeding to its liking, judging by the calls and personal visits I have received from Al Davidoff, SEIU Vice President.
SEIU has made Iroquois the object of a “corporate campaign” intended to pressure, to intimidate, and to publicly embarrass the organization. As a tactic, corporate campaigns have been used by SEIU with organizations across the country, including such notables as Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Sutter Health Care, and even the California Nurses Association. Anyone interested in learning more about this tactic need only search the Internet for “SEIU corporate campaign” and read the links that appear.
Corporate campaigns employ the methods of community organizing, political action, and public relations, such as letter writing, telephone calls, picketing, and publicity. SEIU corporate campaigns target elected officials, as well as candidates for office, and they involve outside organizations in an effort to bring additional pressure on the Board and management of a target organization – in this case, Iroquois Nursing Home.
Along with St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center and Crouse Hospital, Community General Hospital shares the responsibility to appoint Board members to Iroquois. We three hospitals established Iroquois to meet a community need some 15 years ago, under the auspices of Plaza Corporation, Inc. Plaza is the sole member of Iroquois Nursing Home and Rosewood Heights Nursing Home. Plaza's two nursing homes are independent, not-for-profit corporations, separately licensed by New York State, each with its own Board of Directors.
As the three members of Plaza, Crouse, St. Joseph’s, and Community have the responsibility to appoint qualified community representatives to the boards of both Iroquois and Rosewood. Community’s appointees to Iroquois have served as Directors there from four to 15 years each.
Board members have the legal responsibility for nursing home governance. They are fiduciaries – that means, the Directors have legal responsibilities to the residents of the nursing home and to the communities served by the nursing homes.
About a year ago, the Iroquois Board elected one of the Community-appointed Directors as it chairperson. SEIU thinks that makes Community responsible for decisions made by the Iroquois Board. Mr. Davidoff has asked me to intervene with the Community employee serving as Board chairperson. The intention is to bring pressure from Community General Hospital's management upon a hospital employee who has fiduciary responsibilities at Iroquois.
I have explained to Mr. Davidoff – as I did to his predecessor, Marshal Blake – that Community sees Board membership at Iroquois as a community service, not as a puppet of Community’s administration.
Mr. Davidoff has informed me that SEIU would seek to generate unfavorable publicity for Community General Hospital, unless I make an effort to interfere with the Board of an independent, not-for-profit facility. That apparently is the price one pays for doing the right thing in the face of an SEIU corporate campaign.