- Southern California hospital chain Prime Healthcare Services on Monday filed suit in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco against several locally-operating employee unions. The suit accuses Service Employees International Union, SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, union federation Change to Win and three union leaders of "target[ing] and attack[ing] Prime with the ultimate objective of either unionizing Prime, thereby altering its cost structure and business model, or eliminating Prime from the market altogether.''
- Prime has been attempting to purchase Daughters of Charity Health Care System, which has been running in the red. The hospital chain is suing the unions under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), claiming they have been attempting to derail the deal through "extortionate attacks."
- According to Steve Trossman, spokesperson for SEIU-UHW, Prime's allegations "do not hold up to scrutiny." The complaints, according to Trossman, were "contained in a previous lawsuit against SEIU that was dismissed multiple times by a federal judge." SEIU will seek a "fast dismissal" of this new complaint.
Prime confirmed that it has submitted a bid for the Daughters of Charity Hospital Group, including Seton Hospital in Daly City, Seton Coastside in Moss Beach and two hospitals in Los Angeles. All of the facilities serve a high proportion of low-income patients. Daughters of Charity has received seven bids for the properties, which the hospital group is seeking to sell as a lump purchase; The winning bid will be announced in the fall. According to the hospital unions, Prime has a history of rejecting low-income patients and cutting hospital workers' salaries and benefit packages (Prime denies this).
Katherine Franke, a professor at Columbia University Law School, told Contra Costa Times that using the RICO statute is a common practice in a "strategic lawsuit against public participation,'' or a SLAPP suit. SLAPP suits are used as a tool to deter opposing parties through intimidation or the creation of a financial burden.
"Having to respond to it means hiring a lawyer and distracting you from whatever it was you were doing,'' Franke said. "Filing a SLAPP suit is a very common way in which those who oppose the entry of a union or presence of a union try to intimidate a union or deplete union resources in another direction.''