Claiming overwork, Norwalk Hospital food service workers seek union membership
Food service workers at Norwalk Hospital say they want to join a union in order to get better pay, benefits and treatment.
The workers took the first step, according to Dave Hannon, president of Connecticut Health Care Associates, a union representing other workers at the hospital.
“No matter who your employer is, if you're trying to form your union, it takes courage to do that, to stand up and say, ‘we don't want to be treated this way anymore,’” he said.
The workers filed a petition in late June with the National Labor Relations Board to join the union. Hannon said the workers are short-staffed and overworked due to the workload at the hospital. They also want to recoup their paid time off and accused their employer, Morrison Healthcare, of forcing workers into other roles without the necessary training.
Food service workers at Norwalk Hospital earn an average of $15 an hour, he said.
Morrison Healthcare on Wednesday issued a statement.
“Our hard-working team members are at the heart of what we do, and their determination to provide best-in-class care and service for our clients is inspiring,” Morrison said. “We have a long history of listening to our employees, working productively with unions where they exist, and we respect employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act.”
Morrison Healthcare already employs people who belong to unions, including workers at Waterbury Hospital, according to Connecticut Health Care Associates.
Many of the food service workers at Norwalk Hospital are immigrants and working class, Hannon said. Some have limited English proficiency and speak Haitian Creole or Spanish.
The workers are trying to organize as other food service workers statewide have demanded better working conditions. Starbucks workers at various locations across Connecticut have been seeking to form unions; in West Hartford, workers went on strike in late June, accusing the company of union busting and poor working conditions.
Food service workers are less likely to be part of a union than other industries in the private sector, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
An NLRB hearing is set for Friday, July 21. The workers would eventually vote – likely later in the summer – about whether to form a union.
As for specific pay increases, Hannon said the hospital workers are still deciding that among themselves.
“A lot of it depends on what they want. And that's when we'll have those conversations,” Hannon said.