Protest misguided, administrators say

A protest ended with shoving in the offices of Bovard Auditorium on Friday, when students attempted to deliver a letter to the provost’s office on behalf of USC University Hospital workers who feel the hospital administration has engaged in union-busting tactics.

Taking a stand · Amee Chew, a graduate student studying American studies, spoke at the protest against the hiring of the Weissman Group. - Tim Tran | Daily Trojan

Tension has been growing at the University Hospital for the past few months, with union elections approaching. The elections have already been postponed numerous times, but are now slated for May. At the elections, 685 hospital workers will vote whether to keep their current union, switch unions or go without a union all together.

Friday’s protest was organized by members of Student Activists for a Beloved Community after several hospital workers attended an SABC meeting about a month ago and voiced concerns with USC Hospital’s hiring of the Weissman Group, an Ohio-based consulting firm with an alleged history of union-busting.

Mitchell Creem, CEO of the USC University Hospital and USC Norris Cancer Center, said the Weissman Group was hired after members of the Service Employees International Union decided to form a new union. He said the firm has been coaching administrators on how to handle discussions with employees in the weeks leading up to the union elections.

“The Weissman Group was brought in as a result of an election the employees organized themselves,” Creem said. “We have a legal obligation to make sure our employees are informed. All we’re doing is telling our employees what their options are.”

But Dinorah Williams, a labor representative with the California Nurses Association who attended Friday’s protest, said the Weissman Group has used intimidation, one-on-one meetings and false promises in an attempt to convince employees to vote non-union in May’s elections.

“[Hospital administration is] spending a lot of money on PR, on fliers, on pictures, to make it seem like they’re really there for their employees,” Williams said. “But without a union, an employee’s job is at will and can be terminated at any time without notice.”

Williams said she believes the Weissman Group was “hired to teach hospital administration how to watch us, to anticipate what our next move is, to convince nurses that they don’t need union representation.”

Williams and other hospital workers at the protest also claimed the University Hospital is spending tuition money on this endeavor.

“If you go on [the Weissman Group’s] website, you’ll see all these links to how successful they’ve been at preventing unions,” said Diane Hirsch-Garcia, a worker at the hospital who attended the protest. “Typically, these firms cost $5,000 a worker. That’s easily millions of dollars, just to keep unions out.”

The letter to the administration, which student protesters read aloud Friday, said, “[We] do not spend money, take loans and incur debts so that workers will be mistreated. Spending our money to interfere with the choices and lives of employees of USC must stop.”

But Creem said it was the hospital’s revenue, generated from the services it provides, that was footing the bill, adding, “There’s nowhere near that kind of money being spent on this consulting group.”

Norman Weissman, president and founder of the Weissman Group, also denied this allegation.

“There are a lot of things being said that are so far from the truth that I don’t even understand why they say it,” Weissman said. “There’s no millions of dollars. Not even close. There’s not tuition money going toward this. This is paid for by the hospital.”

The protest, which began at noon, ended when members from 15 different student organizations filed into Bovard Auditorium to read a letter of protest aloud in the provost’s office.

Students were asked to leave the office. At one point, Jessi Quizar, a first-year graduate student studying American studies, was shoved. Department of Public Safety officers and Associate Dean of Students Patrick Bailey arrived to speak with the students outside. They said that although it is OK for students to protest, those protests cannot interrupt university business.

Creem said he did not mind that there was a protest, but he believes it was based on false information.

“The fact that there’s a protest is fine. This is an academic environment. I’m just disappointed that this opinion comes without much fact about what is going on,” Creem said.

According to Creem, there are approximately 685 employees currently a part of SEIU, about 700 employees in the California Nurses’ Association and more than 1,200 employees not affiliated with a union at all.

10 replies
  1. hac
    hac says:

    Why does the article neglect to mention WHO did the shoving? It was a staff member in the provost’s office who shoved students without provocation. No students participated in physical violence.

    Why did the editors of the Daily Trojan decide to take this out — and actually resort to the passive voice? You aren’t owned by the university… are you?

  2. Jessi
    Jessi says:

    Incidentally, was Tucker Reed even at the protest that he is reporting on? The person taking notes, getting quotes, and doing the leg work was certainly not Tucker.

  3. Jessi
    Jessi says:

    What the hell kind of headline is this? A critique of the students before the paper even tells you what the protest is about? The administration’s response before you even get to hear what the students have to say? I thought this was an independent student newspaper, not some mouthpiece for the administration.

    Of *course* the administration is going to call the protests misguided. It’s a way to deflect attention from the issues by belittling the protesters, because they can’t can’t argue the main points. They can’t deny that the Weissman group is a well known union busting firm, and that USC has hired them to intervene in the union election that is taking place in May. Check out their website–the Weissman position is obvious. The protesters express a perfectly legitimate desire that workers be allowed to organize, as is their legal right. To quote the clearly biased position of the administration (they’re the one’s being called to account!) in the headline rather than actually saying what happened is just bad journalism.

  4. Evelyn
    Evelyn says:

    If the employees organized themselves, then why the need for teh Weissman Group? Mr. Creem states that he “has a legal obligation to make sure our employees are informed.” Is USC incapable of telling the employees of their “options”, without paying for an outside consulting group? One can only conclude that the Weissman Group was hired for the sole purpose of implementing a campaign to discourage the employees for asserting their right to have their needs/concerns addressed by union representation. That is the only way that “promises”, become “benefits”, and employees cannot be dismissed or fired at will. Regardless of where the money comes from, or the amount spent, it is money that could be put to much better use improving th work environment to provide better care for our patients. We, the CNA represented RN’s, appreciate the commitment of the USC student community for workers rights, and hope for their continued support.

  5. hac
    hac says:

    Tuition is the largest source of USC’s revenues. Regardless of how USC classifies its spending flows, we are part of this “community” and how its resources are used should be students’ concern.

    Faculty and students have signed a support letter in solidarity with USC healthcare workers, and calling on the administration to rescind the Weissman Group.

  6. Alice
    Alice says:

    Who are they kidding? The hospital has to hire a consultant to inform union members of their options?My union rep Donora is right on point!

  7. aloka naskar
    aloka naskar says:

    agree with Diane, these students clearly do not have both sides of the story but are protesting based on what the union members have told them. Students often think that to side with unions is the ‘right’ side of the issue. They would have been better served talking to both sides and being informed, that is what education is all about. if they did that and then sided with the unions, it would be ok because it their viewpoint after due diligence

  8. Diane
    Diane says:

    I think it should be okay to protest when students know what the hell they are protesting. Clearly not the case here, as the students appear to be dupes for union organizers like Dinorah.

    • read the article
      read the article says:

      Notice the only thing cited in the article that actually contradicts any of the protesters’ claims is that it isn’t being paid for by tuition money. Incidentally, that doesn’t really address the core of their claims at all. By only taking issue with the amount of money in question and the source of the funds, Weissman is tacitly admitting that the union-busting claims are accurate. Actually read the article before making ignorant comments like this.

  9. mamartinez
    mamartinez says:

    “They said that although it is OK for students to protest, those protests cannot interrupt university business.”

    Seriously you can’t be serious. Seriously.

Comments are closed.