Maine Women Sues Union for $2 Million, Alleges Harassment, Threats

A certified nurse’s aide in Bangor, Me., who was fired from her job is suing the Am. Fed. of Gov’t Employees and nine former co-workers for $2 million, saying she was harassed, threatened and eventually terminated because she reported that she had witnessed a unionized employee beat an elderly patient. Melissa Ferris seeks monetary damages plus attorney’s fees in a six-count lawsuit that alleges violations of the state Whistleblower Protection Act, the state Human Rights Act and a federal anti-racketeering act.  The suit was filed Aug. 20 at U.S. Dist. Court.

Ferris alleges she was targeted by members of AFGE, which represented another nurse’s aide who allegedly dragged a 95-year-old man out of a chair and slammed him against a wall at the nursing-home ward at a Veterans’ Admin. Medical Ctr. called Togus. The man since has died of unrelated complications. The Me. Human Rights Comm’n found grounds to believe that discrimination and retaliation did occur in the matter.  Efforts to reach a settlement failed this summer.

Retaliation against Ferris for reporting the abuse was “very troubling, outrageous really,” said her attorney, Susan Wallace. They included Ferris being assigned an unfair share of the work and being forced to work overtime when other staff did not show up to relieve her.  She also claims she was falsely accused of abusing an elderly patient identified only as “Mr. K.” and accused of incompetence on several occasions. In Oct. 1997, a few days after being fired, Ferris received a note at her home that ended with the phrase, “That’s what you get for screwing with the union,” according to the lawsuit. [Bangor Daily News 8/31/99]

Illinois Union Not “For the Children”
United Bhd. of Carpenters Local 839 boss, Joe Pompa, has refused to suspend the local’s picketing of the Hyatt Regency in Schaumburg, Ill., so a children’s charity fundraiser can take place on Sep. 17. Pompa reasoned, “I can’t go out and hold a sign one day and go inside the hotel to attend an event the next.” Members of Local 839 have been demonstrating outside the hotel since Sep. 1 to protest a contractor’s hiring of non-union workers to renovate a restaurant inside the hotel.

Hyatt general manager Earl Nightingale sent a letter to the union Sep. 3, asking that it not picket Sep. 17 so the Children’s Advocacy Center of Northwest Cook County could hold a fundraising dinner that evening. Officials of the Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based advocacy center, which provides counseling to children who have been sexually abused, have said they would cancel the event rather than have their board members and supporters — many of them union officials –cross a picket line. The cancellation could cost the group $40,000 in donations. [Chi. Trib. 9/5/99]