Federal government to charge Kitsap Mental Health Services with worker rights violations

The federal government is charging Kitsap Mental Health Services (KMHS) with illegal union-busting and a wide range of worker rights violations.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) office of the general counsel has directed that an official complaint be issued against KMHS, charging that management at the community mental health agency:

• Illegally withdrew union recognition in December 2009
• Illegally undermined the collective bargaining process
• Unilaterally and illegally changed working conditions
• Unilaterally and illegally changed union workplace access rules and delayed providing the union information it needed to properly represent its members
• Illegally intimidated union members who were seeking to exercise their legal rights

Once the complaint is officially issued, a trial will be scheduled before an administrative law judge.

“This validates what we’ve been saying all along: Kitsap Mental Health violated our rights. It’s time for Kitsap management to come clean with us, and with the community,” said Charlotte Anibas, an SEIU Healthcare 1199NW member at Kitsap Mental Health Services.

“The clients who need mental health services are suffering because of the severe state budget cuts. That’s where our focus needs to be, and we want Kitsap Mental Health management to stop using public tax dollars to fight the federal government on these charges, especially when this money needs to be spent serving clients,” said Anibas.

There are 200 SEIU Healthcare 1199NW mental health professionals and support staff at the Bremerton-area agency. Fourteen months ago, Kitsap Mental Health management unilaterally walked away from the bargaining table and disavowed recognition of the union. The regional office of the NLRB initially dismissed the union’s charges against Kitsap Mental Health. But in a Jan. 25 letter the NLRB office of the general counsel in Washington, D.C. overruled the regional office and ordered that a wide range of complaints be issued, charging the agency with violating federal labor law.

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