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St. Vincent, UAW win cooperation award

Officials of St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center made no secret of their opposition to unionization in 2000.

But yesterday an executive shared a podium with officials of three UAW units that were eventually installed there and praised the relationship that has developed between the hospital and the union.

The occasion was an annual labor-management cooperation awards presentation by the Toledo Labor-Management-Citizens Committee, a nonprofit organization that arbitrates labor disputes.

The recipients this year were St. Vincent and its union, United Auto Workers Local 12, and the Medical University of Ohio and its union, Local 2415 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

Martin Fitts, L-M-C executive director, presented the awards during a luncheon at the Clarion Westgate Hotel.

Accepting the award on behalf of St. Vincent, Sister June Ketterer, vice president of mission and values integration, said: "It took us a while to get to know each other.

"But it's been six years. They have done a wonderful job over that period of time," she said of company and union negotiators.

"We've always kept the patients at the center" of discussions, said Jane Wootton, a UAW official who represents X-ray technicians, respiratory therapists, and other technical employees.

The UAW represents a total of 2,600 St. Vincent employees, including nurses and cafeteria workers.

"They have traveled quite a path in a short time," the L-M-C's director said. "They had to work through bumps and bruises early."

At MUO, where there is a longer history of unionization, grievances were reduced 70 percent after management personnel and union leaders attended a training session that taught them a new approach to handling employee complaints, said Connie Rubin, director of labor and employee relations.

The former approach "wasn't working for us," said Thomas Kosek, president of the union unit at MUO.

"When members see solutions, they don't care how the problem is solved," he added.

Referring to MUO's pending merger with the University of Toledo, Mr. Kosek said: "We're in for a rough road ahead. This new way of labor relations is going to carry us through" the merger.

Contact Gary Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.

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