Behind the (security) camera: 2 guards say Stanford Health Care suppressed unionization efforts

Sept. 26, 2022, 11:09 p.m.

At the end of the summer, Teamsters, a union seeking to represent security staff at Stanford Health Care (SHC) alleged in a report to a federal agency that SHC illegally threatened employees for organizing.

Now, two SHC security officers have come forward to The Daily to share how their distrust in management led them to organize for improved working conditions and better compensation. The officers requested anonymity due to fear of repercussions from their employer.

“We are asking to be recognized. We have the votes. We want change,” the first officer said.

In addition to concerns about how SHC handled the officers’ organizing, the first officer said managers exhibited favoritism and treated some guards unfairly. The second officer said they had encountered a host of scheduling issues and that there had been frequent conflicts between management and officers.

A Stanford Health Care spokesperson declined to comment on the specific allegations but reaffirmed that it respects its workers’ choices to join a union. In this case, however, the spokesperson said the officers did not pursue the appropriate course of unionization. 

A representative for Teamsters Local 853, a workers union that represents members primarily in the Bay Area, contested the claim that the officers did not appropriately pursue unionization, and a second representative, Reginald Knighten, wrote that SHC has “simply refused” to recognize the union.

“Teamsters Local 853 stands willing to work with representatives of Stanford Health Care to address the most appropriate vehicle to establish its majority support of the Senior Security Officers, Security Officers, and Dispatchers,” he wrote. 

According to Teamsters, a majority of guards have expressed a desire to unionize. 

The first officer, who has worked with Stanford Health Care for over 10 years, said they were motivated to organize with the Teamsters as a response to poor treatment and unfair pay. 

The officer said Stanford Health Care practices “a lot of favoritism in our department. Administration hires around their circle of friends.” 

The officer alleged that one administrator had promoted their family member over officers who have worked with SHC significantly longer. 

Additionally, according to the first officer, over the last three years officers have received only a 1% pay raise, while management received substantial bonuses. 

The second officer, who has been with SHC for more than four years, also said they were concerned by what they described as “paltry” raises, which was one of their reasons for seeking to form a union. The second officer also alleged that management had created and overlooked issues pertaining to scheduling, uniform choices and paid time off.

The second officer said when employees wanted a 12-hour schedule, they were unable to receive approval through management and involved human resources. The employees ultimately were able to switch to the alternate schedule but had to request shift times without knowing what the shifts would entail until after they were assigned.

The second officer alleged that while management claimed not to know when shifts would start and end, the shift times were published “almost immediately after the bids were completed.” They said the start time was moved two hours earlier, from 6 a.m. to 4 a.m.

“There was a lot of outcry,” the second officer wrote in an email, “but management refused to reconsider.”

The second officer also wrote that management promised a committee to consider changing their current “Class A police-style” attire to “polo shirts and tactical pants,” which was never convened, even though the outfit change was supported by many officers. 

Mandatory holdovers, which forced officers to stay on due to low staffing on upcoming shifts, were repeatedly implemented three years ago, the second officer wrote. They said the practice only stopped after HR intervened to remind management that mandatory holdovers require that all hands, management included, stay past their shift.

The second officer also said that requests for paid time off were frequently denied, a pattern they said temporarily ceased when the desire to unionize became known to management. 

“However, after that flurry, we are back to routine denials, even when no one else is off that day,” the officer added.

Management even insulted officers injured on the job, according to the second officer. 

“Last year several officers were injured on one of the Units. At a briefing, [a] supervisor made the offhand remark that officers are ‘punching bags,’” the second officer said.

Stanford Health Care spokesperson Julie Greicius declined to comment on the officers’ specific complaints.

Greicius wrote in a statement to The Daily that while Stanford Health Care “respects that it is every employee’s choice to join or to not join a union,” according to the National Labor Relations Act, the appropriate way for workers to unionize would be through a labor board election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Since Teamsters represents other work groups, federal labor law prohibits it from pursuing this path, Greicius wrote.

Greicius wrote that this is “a fact that the Teamsters have acknowledged and confirmed.”

Though Teamsters recognizes the law that prohibits a labor board election from taking place, Teamsters 853 Representative Pablo Barrera said that “an employer may voluntarily recognize a ‘mixed-guard union,’” a union that represents guards as well as other types of employees and shared several cases in which this has successfully occurred in an August statement to The Daily.

The two officers said they haven’t given up on the potential of unionizing.

The first officer said that they and their fellow officers hoped to receive “fair compensation” and “fair treatment” by being represented by the Teamsters union. 

The second added in a written statement, “A seat at the table. A voice in some of the decisions that affect OUR work/life balance (shifts/hours). Better wages and working conditions. Respect.”

When they attempted to organize, however, the first officer said they were “met with extreme negativity. Stanford [Health Care] has been very non-responsive, very difficult, and non-accepting on our requests for recognition.”

The first officer told The Daily that officers trying to organize were given “run-arounds” and told that they already have a “fair compensation package.” 

The first officer said SHC posted “information about unions” in the officers’ break rooms, claiming that unions “offer false promises” and “can do nothing for you.”

Both officers said their director also sent out an email instructing them not to join a union.

The second officer said they feel like they are being investigated: “Department Leadership showed up to briefings, and made the rounds at various times to speak with officers on post during miscellaneous hours as if to try to find out who is behind the Unionizing effort,” they said.

A previous version of this article misspelled Reginald Knighten’s name. The Daily regrets this error.

Contact Oriana at news ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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