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Union pickets Valley Hospital after 40-year employee’s firing

Betty Williams is out of a job after 40 years at Valley Hospital Medical Center, and she said it’s because she wants a fair union contract for her co-workers.

The Valley Hospital employees represented by Culinary Local 226 have worked without a contract since the end of 2016, and more than 250 union members, including Williams, picketed at the hospital on Wednesday evening to help spur a resolution.

Williams, 60, who worked in the environmental services (cleaning) department at Valley, said she faced increased scrutiny at work as she became more involved with labor negotiations and was fired in late June.

“I was very active in the union, and the more active I became, they came after me more,” she said.

Culinary Local 226 represents about 100 workers at Valley Hospital, including those in the housekeeping department, cooks, cashiers and kitchen workers. They were joined on the picket line Wednesday by Culinary workers at other companies.

A Valley Hospital spokeswoman did not address Williams specifically but offered a statement Tuesday ahead of the protest:

“We regret that the union has chosen to employ this confrontational tactic and has repeatedly distributed inaccurate or misleading information rather than working to resolve its concerns at the bargaining table,” the statement said.

“We will continue to engage in good faith negotiations. We are committed to reaching a durable and modern contract that reflects the needs of our operations, supports the highest quality patient care, and provides opportunity and a rewarding, collegial workplace for our Dietary and Environmental Services staff who are covered by this collective bargaining agreement.”

A Culinary spokeswoman said Williams was one of four union leaders who had been fired by Valley and that the hospital had also suspended a union organizer from coming onto the property.

Ted Pappageorge, Culinary’s secretary-treasurer who was on the picket line Wednesday, said Valley Hospital was “not new to firing workers for union activity,” but he called Williams’ firing “the most egregious yet.”

“A woman who was a 40-year employee with a clean record but was a union activist on the negotiating committee, and Valley decided to send a chilling message to the rest of the workforce by firing her unjustly,” he said.

Pappageorge said the union was scheduled for more negotiations with hospital administration Thursday, but he was not optimistic. He said the hospital is trying to cut the workers’ union health plan and pension, despite the plaudits they received for toiling as “essential workers” during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Workers sacrificed to do whatever it takes to make sure this community got served, but now when it comes time to right this incredible wrong that Valley Hospital has wrought on their workers, when it comes time for Valley Hospital to settle up, they basically are stabbing workers in the back,” Pappageorge said.

Williams said she hoped to regain her job after a contract was signed.

“I told my co-workers, just because they let me go, you fight harder,” she said. “You fight stronger, you get together, you get your people together, you talk to them, you tell this company what you want in the contract.”

Contact Jim Barnes at jbarnes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0277. Follow @JimBarnesLV on Twitter.

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