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Hospital Probed on Union


The state attorney general's office is reviewing allegations that Antelope Valley Hospital officials violated state law by dissuading nurses from forming a union.

At issue is whether the Antelope Valley Health Care District, which operates the 350-bed hospital in Lancaster, violated a law that forbids employers from using state tax dollars for antiunion purposes. The California Nurses Assn. alleges that the district hired consultants and lawyers to help fight unionization and purchased antiunion fliers and other materials with state funds.

The charges are being evaluated by the attorney general's civil rights enforcement section, according to a letter that Chief Assistant Atty. Gen. Richard Frank wrote to union representatives last week.

In May, a majority of the hospital's registered nurses voted in favor of joining the union, CNA officials said.

District officials have refused to recognize the union, arguing that because the election did not use a secret ballot, the results were invalid. The dispute is being reviewed by the state's Public Employment Relations Board.

Gary Hill, chairman of the health-care district, said the hospital put state funds in an account that was not used for antiunion activities, and added that he expects the attorney general will find that the district did nothing wrong.

"They will find these are frivolous claims," he said.

The nurses said they have been pushing for a union amid concerns that patient care is suffering because staffing has not kept pace with the area's growing population.

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