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Saturday, December 20, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 6/5/2001

A fit of pique

Like much of Toledo, we're stunned by United Auto Workers Regional Director Lloyd Mahaffey's declaration that he wants his union to boycott Toledo Hospital because the UAW lost its effort to organize 3,300 people there.

Mr. Mahaffey's response smacks of petty vindictiveness and malice better suited to the old Jimmy Hoffa image of the Teamsters than the enlightened labor union the UAW has generally shown itself to be.

Even worse, Mr. Mahaffey plans to use his vindictiveness in a way that will make up to 35,000 dues-paying UAW members suffer, by denying them choice in medical matters.

It is bad enough that the two major hospitals in town, Toledo and St. Vincent-Mercy, have their own insurance plans, each of which has no reciprocity with the other. Were he to work to tear down the barrier that denies medical choice to so many Toledoans, he would benefit not only his union members, but everyone in the area.

It would be a mistake to assume that his members can always, every time, get the best health care through Mercy Health Partners and St. Vincent, and not through Toledo Hospital. Each does some things better than the other.

To deny UAW members access to some of the best physicians in the region because, among others, nurses and floor-sweepers at the hospital wouldn't join the UAW is cutting off the union's nose to spite its face.

It is a childish response to losing a fight. And while Mr. Mahaffey may feel that loss keenly, and while it may have sullied his image within the union - suggesting he might be a guy who can't deliver - whining won't help.

A second major problem with Mr. Mahaffey's approach is that there is no way either the administration or the physicians can change anything. Everyone's livelihood is put at risk because of his grandiose fit of pique sure to leave pro-unionists at Toledo wondering if they'd erred.

Union membership does not necessarily make for quality medicine, though in the right circumstances and with the right union, it certainly could help. However, Mr. Mahaffey does damage to his union and insults the intelligence of everyone else by suggesting that one begets the other.

What we most deplore about Mr. Mahaffey's response is that, like a victim identifying with his oppressor, he is adopting the same ham-handed approaches that have occasionally tainted the ProMedica way of doing business, to its detriment.

The union has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, and we need to see, along with the rest of the community, how that plays out.

But for now, it appears that a legitimate election was held, with 98 percent participation, and the union lost - by a wide margin. We certainly would hope that a boycott doesn't occur and that the idea isn't widely embraced by the UAW membership.

It would be, in fact, downright unhealthy.



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