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Emanuel employees rally for union vote
EMC rally pic
More than two dozen employees of Emanuel Medical Center gather outside the hospital Wednesday to show support for the efforts to unionize. - photo by SABRA STAFFORD / The Journal

Mark Eusey comes from a family of healthcare workers, so naturally he became an auto mechanic.

“I was not going near a hospital,” Eusey jokes of his career path.

But life had another plan for Eusey — one that led him to take a position at a hospital.

“Wouldn’t you know it, I fell in love with it,” Eusey said. “I didn’t choose this job — it chose me. I believe in patient care and I believe in taking care of the sick and tired.”

Lately some of the joy Eusey has felt in doing his job as a floor technician at Emanuel Medical Center has been tempered because he says he has been made a target for his pro-union views.

Eusey was one of about 30 EMC workers who gathered outside the hospital Wednesday night for a pro-union rally.

“Without a union we can’t get this job done to the best of our abilities,” Eusey said.

About 400 unlicensed EMC employees, which includes kitchen and maintenance staff, technicians, respiratory therapists, and aides, were scheduled to vote in January on whether to join the Service Employees International Union — United Healthcare Workers West. But the vote was postponed when allegations of unfair labor practices were made to the National Labor Relations Board.

The union charges accuse the hospital administration of intimidating and threatening workers who have shown support for the union. The SEIU-UHW said the practices made a fair election impossible.

The hospital maintains it has followed all labor laws.

The NLRB has been investigating the claims and anticipates a ruling in a few weeks time, said George Velastegui, the regional attorney for the NLRB.

In February, Tenet Healthcare Corporation announced an agreement to acquire EMC.

“In violation of federal law, hospital management repeatedly told workers that if they voted for the union, Tenet would not buy the hospital and it would be shut down,” said SEIU-UHW spokesperson Sean Wherley.

Eusey said the upcoming purchase by Tenet makes the choice to join the union even more critical.

“We’re going up against a big corporation now, “Eusey said. “They treat us like batteries running the machine for their shareholders, but we want a piece of the pie. We want a voice.”