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National Campaign Asks Union Members to Stop Donating to City of Hope

February 11, 1988|HENRY WEINSTEIN | Times Labor Writer

AFL-CIO officials in Los Angeles announced Wednesday a national campaign urging union members to halt contributions to the City of Hope, for many years a major charity of organized labor.

William R. Robertson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said unions were launching the fund-raising boycott in a "last resort" to persuade the prestigious Duarte facility to change its posture in labor negotiations with 330 workers who belong to the Office and Professional Employees Union.

Labor's Contribution

He said he thought the boycott, approved by the AFL-CIO executive council in December but not publicized until Wednesday, could have considerable effect because labor annually contributes more than $2 million a year to the City of Hope, a nonprofit hospital and medical research center. At a news conference, Robertson estimated that union members had donated "about $100 million" to the cancer treatment facility during its 75-year history.

"We certainly are concerned about the impact," said Bill Brooks, City of Hope's director of human resources. But Brooks said there was no way at this point that he could assess the potential magnitude of the boycott.

Brooks said that 30% of the City of Hope's $110-million budget last year was generated by contributions. "We don't relish the loss of any support. The AFL-CIO is correct; they are a long and continued supporter of the institution," he added.

The labor dispute began in October, 1986, when City of Hope proposed a change in its contract with Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 30, which represents about 330 employees at the medical center. For at least 25 years previously, many of those clerical workers, including medical transcribers, worked 35 hours a week but were paid for 40 hours.

City of Hope said it needed the employees to work a 40-hour week and offered a pay increase that would total 2% over a one-month period. This meant that their gross monthly wages would increase but that their hourly rate would decrease by about $1.14 an hour, according to Bill Roberts, a union business representative. The union asserted this was unfair; negotiations went nowhere and in January, 1987, the hospital imposed the new conditions.

Wage Freeze Told

Roberts said the hospital also imposed a wage freeze on a second group of employees who already had been working a 40-hour week. And he said that a third group of employees--doing the same work as the second group--had an actual pay cut of $43 per week, creating a "two-tier" pay system. There also are disputes over seniority and benefits issues.

"We do not consider that the action we have taken is unreasonable," said Brooks of the City of Hope. "No one has shown us that we are paying anything other than a reasonable and competitive salary."

Although the workers authorized a strike more than a year ago, there has been no walkout and Roberts said Wednesday that the union said there was no plan for one at present. No new talks are scheduled.

Last August, a non-binding arbitration panel issued a report saying that Local 30 had been "flexible" in bargaining and that its proposals provided the basis for a fair agreement, while management's positions, including a claim of financial difficulty, were not supported by the facts. The management representative on the three-member panel dissented, saying the union's proposal did not form the reasonable basis for a settlement.

A month later, Richard Egan, the City of Hope's liaison with organized labor, sent a letter to Lane Kirkland, president of the AFL-CIO, and more than 30 presidents of national unions, asking them to raise millions of dollars toward a new research fund.

In October, the Office and Professional Employees asked Kirkland to put the City of Hope on the labor federation's national boycott list and that was done in December.

Roberts said the union would conduct informational picketing outside the City of Hope and at its fund-raising events.

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