(Bloomberg) -- Stanford Health Care illegally threatened security guards’ jobs and punished an activist for organizing, the Teamsters alleged in US labor board complaints.

In a filing this week with the National Labor Relations Board, the union alleged that the hospital system affiliated with Stanford University “threatened, coerced, and retaliated against” an employee for exercising legally-protected rights. In a prior filing last month, it accused Stanford Health Care of making threats “that forming a union will cause a staff reduction” and that it would mean “losing benefits.”

In an emailed statement, the health-care non-profit said, “Stanford Health Care respects the rights of all our employees and believes it is every employee’s own choice to join or not to join a union.”

Claims filed with the NLRB are investigated by regional officials, who if they find merit in the allegations and can’t secure a settlement, then issue a complaint on behalf of the labor board’s general counsel, which is considered by an agency judge. Those judges’ rulings can be appealed to the NLRB members in Washington, and then to federal court. 

The agency has the authority to order companies to reinstate fired workers and change policies, but generally can’t hold executives personally liable for alleged wrongdoing or issue any punitive damages.

The Teamsters union has been trying for several months to unionize a group of around 130 security staff, and in April asked Stanford Health Care to voluntarily recognize and negotiate with the union, saying four-fifths of the workers had signed up to be represented. 

Stanford has rejected that request, saying that the appropriate way for workers to unionize would be through a labor board election, which the Teamsters can’t pursue because of a law preventing unions that represent other sorts of workers from being on security guards’ unionization election ballots.

California state legislators have joined the Teamsters in urging Stanford Health Care to voluntarily recognize the union, as the law allows them to do. 

In response, an associate vice president for Stanford University and Stanford Health Care wrote that management strives “to have a constructive relationship with any union who may represent employees through a secret ballot election conducted by the NLRB.”


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