CGH Medical Center in Sterling violated state labor law by posting on its website a letter from CEO Paul Steinke that instructed employees how to revoke their union membership, according to a recent decision.

That is a recommended decision issued last week by an administrative law judge of the Illinois Labor Relations Board.

Paul Steinke is CEO of CGH Medical Center.

The web posting of Steinke’s letter was an illegal attempt to “interfere with, restrain, coerce, deter, and/or discourage employees from becoming or remaining members of a labor organization”, the decision says.

Click here to read the judge’s recommended decision and order.

“We’re gratified that Paul Steinke and management are being held accountable for their anti-worker actions,” AFSCME Council 31 Regional Director Doug Woodson said in a recent release. “Steinke’s continued pattern of anti-worker behavior is particularly disappointing, given the pandemic that has called CGH healthcare workers to go above and beyond to care for their community.”

CGH employees overcame management’s relentless two-year anti-union campaign to form a union with AFSCME, which was certified in April 2021, according to the union. AFSCME now represents some 850 registered nurses (RNs), certified nurse assistants (CNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), phlebotomists, medical assistants and other health care workers in the CGH system.

CGH Medical Center is at 100 E. LeFevre Road, Sterling, Ill.

CGH workers are still striving for their first union contract at the bargaining table, where management is resisting employees’ proposals that would improve pay, benefits, staffing levels and patient care, the release said.

In addition, CGH and CEO Steinke face four more unfair labor practice charges filed in 2019. Those charges relate to a pattern of abuse and intimidation by CGH management during employees’ union organizing drive, including:

  • Retaliatory discipline of employees for engaging in legally protected activities like talking about the union on non-work time;
  • Directing hospital security and the police to capriciously remove AFSCME organizing staff from the hospital parking lot; and
  • Wrongfully terminating an employee who was an outspoken union supporter.

Those charges have been heard by an administrative law judge whose decision is pending.

Hospital response

On Wednesday, the CGH Medical Center administration issued the following response to the decision:

“CGH Medical Center (CGHMC) has been bargaining in good faith with representatives from the AFSCME, Council 31, since September of 2021 in an effort to reach agreement on terms and conditions of employment for CGHMC’s AFSCME-represented staff.

“Recently, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued a recommended decision to the state labor board concerning two letters written more than two years ago that informed CGH employees about their legal rights during union organizing. After those letters were written, the ALJ found that new state legislation imposed a new, broader gag order on CGHMC and other public employers.    

“We are disappointed in the ALJ’s recommendation to the state labor board. We believe that the First Amendment protects the right of employees to hear from all sides, not just unions. The decision is not final, and we are reviewing our appeal options.

“We respect the rights of our all CGHMC employees and value their commitment to our patients and the community we serve.”