May 24, 2022

CGH illegally retaliated by firing a union supporter

CGH Medical Center in Sterling has been found in violation of state labor law—again. The public hospital illegally retaliated against employees who engaged in lawful activities like talking about their union on non-work time and wrongfully fired an employee who was an outspoken union supporter. Those are among the findings of an administrative law judge of the Illinois Labor Relations Board in a recommended decision and order issued in mid-May.

CGH and its managers “demonstrated a pattern of discriminatory conduct against … union activity,” violating state labor law in nine different instances, the judge wrote.

The new finding comes less than two months after CGH was found to have previously broken labor law by posting a letter from CEO Paul Steinke instructing employees how to revoke their union membership.

Fired for union support

Most egregious among the latest violations, CGH management wrongfully disciplined, took away job duties from, suspended without pay and finally fired Brandi Barron—an employee who was a vocal union supporter—then used what the judge termed “shifting, exaggerated, and disingenuous grounds” in an attempt to excuse their unlawful actions.

As a result, CGH is ordered to offer Barron reinstatement to her job with back pay plus interest, and to “cease and desist from: Interfering with, restraining or coercing its employees … discriminat[ing] against union discussions … threatening employees with discipline [and] discriminating against employees for engaging in union … activity.”

Brandi Barron addressed the CGH board of trustees in March 2020 about the harassment she faced on the job since she became vocal about her support of unionization.

“The pattern of illegal retaliation by CGH management from CEO Paul Steinke on down includes some of the worst examples of anti-worker, anti-union behavior in recent memory,” AFSCME Council 31 Regional Director Doug Woodson said. “CGH workers are health care heroes fighting for fair treatment, justice and respect they deserve.”

Fight for a fair contract

CGH workers are still striving for their first union contract at the bargaining table, where management is resisting employees’ proposals that would improve pay, benefits, staffing levels and patient care.

Employees overcame management’s relentless two-year anti-union campaign to form a union with AFSCME; certified in April 2021, the union represents some 850 registered nurses (RNs), certified nurse assistants (CNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), phlebotomists, medical assistants and other health care workers in the CGH system.

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