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Board upholds union defeat at Catholic hospitals

The National Labor Relations Board has upheld failed January union elections at five Catholic Healthcare West/Mercy Healthcare Sacramento facilities despite its findings that hospital management violated some fair labor laws.

In a ruling April 28, the board's regional office found that management personnel illegally monitored union activities and threatened union supporters, but it ruled that the infractions had a "minimal" impact on the Jan. 27 elections.

Local 250 of the Service Employees International Union was seeking to organize nearly 2,300 employees at five hospital sites: Mercy General and Methodist in Sacramento, Mercy San Juan and Mercy American River in Carmichael and Mercy in Folsom. In simultaneous votes, Mercy technical employees voted 305 to 193 against organizing, while service employees voted 701 to 598 against affiliating with Local 250.

Employees seeking to unionize said they would appeal the regional office's ruling to the national office in Washington.

Jonathan Seagle, the regional hearing officer, ruled that "although there is evidence [Mercy] engaged in some unlawful restrictions of union activity at [Mercy] facilities, there is no evidence that [the union supporters'] ability to convey its campaign arguments to unit employees was materially affected."

Mercy spokeswoman Jill Dryer said that since the election, Mercy "has worked hard to reinforce our commitment to our employees that no matter what their position was on the union, we respect their right to make their own decision and we will stand by that decision."

Pro-union employees said they would appeal the ruling because Mercy Healthcare is not being held accountable for the NLRB findings that it violated some fair labor laws.

"In essence, the NLRB said to Mercy, `Yes, you broke the law, but that's OK,' "said Bill Watson, a monitor technician at Mercy General Hospital and a member of the union organizing committee.

Methodists retain anti-gay policies

The United Methodist church voted May 11 to retain policies prohibiting homosexuals from ordination, banning same-sex union ceremonies and describing homosexuality as "incompatible with Christian teaching."

The votes, at the church's general conference in Cleveland, all carried by 2-to-1 ratios. The votes were overshadowed by a protest that brought the denomination's top decision-making body to a standstill and resulted in arrests of at least 27 people including two bishops. The general conference is held everyfour years.

During two sessions, more than 200 activists disrupted the meeting by storming the convention floor and circling the auditorium to protest the votes. After taking a break and entering into prayer, delegates voted to allow the protesters to remain on the convention floor throughout the end of the debate.

But when delegates reconvened after lunch and voted to prohibit same-sex unions, more than two-dozen protesters blocked the stage of the auditorium and vowed not to leave unless they were arrested. Several Cleveland police officers led them offstage without handcuffs. The arrestees face charges of disrupting a lawful meeting-- a misdemeanor -- with a maximum punishment of $250 and/or 30 days in jail, plus court costs.

Bishop Joseph Sprague of Chicago, who was also arrested in a demonstration May 10, and Bishop Susan Morrison of Albany, N.Y., were arrested with the protesters. Also arrested was the Rev. Gregory Dell, a United Methodist pastor who was suspended from ministry for performing a same-sex union ceremony.

On May 10, 191 people were arrested after they blocked the driveway to the convention center in protest of anti-gay policies.

Campaign against Vatican U.N. status under the

The campaign by Catholics for a Free Choice to end the Vatican's permanent observer status at the United Nations is reminiscent of "other episodes of anti-Catholic bigotry," the head of the U. …