One Medical contests unionizing employees’ ‘unsupported and factually incorrect’ claims of poor pay, mistreatment

More than 500 nonclinical employees at One Medical have declared their intention to join the international labor union Workers United, according to media reports confirmed by representatives of the labor group and One Medical.

The employees’ organizing committee said in a Monday letter to One Medical leadership that they represented each of One Medical’s active markets and make up “a generous percentage” of the company’s administrative and phlebotomy workforces.

“We love One Medical for the myriad benefits and opportunities this company has given us. However, our work is not shaped by fair, transparent and inclusive decision-making,” the organizing committee wrote in the letter provided to Fierce Healthcare.

“We as workers should be part of the process—given a seat at the table—not just told what decision has already been made for us. This agency, this voice, is what our union will provide,” they wrote.

Alongside the desire for representation, Richard Minter, director of organizing at Workers United (an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union), told Fierce Healthcare in an email statement that the employees had several complaints regarding their hiring, compensation and treatment at the tech-enabled primary care provider.

He also said the employees “repeatedly express dissatisfaction” with the company’s adherence to its core values and that “prior to the IPO, One Medical meant something different than is seen by the staff today.”

San Francisco-based One Medical went public in January 2020 and has since grown its membership to 598,000 people as of the close of its first quarter. The company brought in $121.4 million net revenue for the same quarter and said it’s on track to spread its hybrid telehealth and in-person services to 22 markets.

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As of midday Wednesday, Minter said the company had not acknowledged the unionization plans “other than to send out a predictable unit-wide communication denying the effort of the workers to build true worker power.” He also said the workers’ organizing committee correspondence to CEO Amir Dan Rubin had yet to be answered by that time.

However, in a statement provided Thursday, One Medical told Fierce Healthcare it would recognize the employees’ union should it receive support through a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) secret-ballot election. 

The company also provided a copy of Rubin’s response to the organizing committee’s correspondence, which was delivered Wednesday afternoon and has since been received by the organizing committee.

This letter similarly called for an NLRB-conducted election prior to One Medical’s recognition of an employee union but also took direct issue with claims that employees made in the media.

“While your internal letter stated that the writer(s) is(are) ‘committed to One Medical’s core values,’ and ‘want to build a relationship based on equality and mutual respect…’, you were separately quoted in an external news article making unsupported and factually incorrect claims about your colleagues and company,” Rubin wrote. “This seems highly inconsistent with your declared interests and has led to disappointment and frustration among many team members of the organization.”

In statements to Fierce Healthcare, the primary care provider again contested the majority of the complaints Minter said the employers had relayed to Workers United.

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For instance, Minter said that the employees reported to his organization that they were “severely underpaid for the labor done, often below living wage for the cities in which they live in” and were “often misled” regarding the responsibilities of the jobs for which they were hired.

He also said that the employees were “repeatedly denied hazard pay” during the COVID-19 pandemic and “have been forced to watch as leadership refused to apologize or take responsibility” for allegations that the company had been administering COVID-19 vaccinations to ineligible patients—a controversy that ultimately led Congress to investigate the San Francisco company’s practices.

In response, the primary care company told Fierce Healthcare that it offers “competitive rates of pay for all roles in all markets,” specifically highlighting that its San Francisco entry-level positions begin 37% above the city’s minimum wage (currently $16.32 per hour) and has structured annual raises.

One Medical said it is “clear with recruits about their roles’ expectations and workloads” during recruitment and has an anonymous compliance hotline available for staff to raise these types of concerns.

The company noted that it, “like many of its peers,” did not provide hazard pay during the pandemic but did give a one-time bonus to administrative staff. One Medical said it also looked to mitigate infection risk by proving personal protective equipment and training, upgrading its air filtration systems and cleaning protocols and establishing an employee COVID-19 testing program.

As for the vaccine rollout controversy, One Medical pointed to prior blog posts from executive leaders discussing the issue but admitted that its initial practices were not ironclad.

“We have taken vaccine eligibility requirements seriously since day one of our vaccine rollout,” the company said. “To be sure, over time we identified areas where we could’ve done better to verify vaccine eligibility, and we changed our process for determining eligibility several times to address the changing environment for vaccine distribution and to respond to input from public health authorities.”

Previous reports on the employees’ complaints included claims of insufficient training for skilled roles, which were also denied by One Medical.

Workers United did not provide a timeline for the employees’ plans to organize.

Per the NLRB, employees must file a petition and other documents with the government organization’s regional office that show support from at least 30% of employees before a formal election will be organized by its agents. Unions may also be lawfully formed outside of an NLRB election, but only with voluntary recognition by the employer if the employees can demonstrate majority support, according to NLRB.

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