Calling for an end to alleged harassment of union supporters at the St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, a group of local clergy, religious leaders and nurses held a protest march and candlelight vigil outside the hospital Wednesday, December 17th.

The coalition of religious leaders from local Catholic, Protestant and Jewish congregations called on St. John’s hospital management to end its recent alleged mistreatment of registered nurses supporting a union and to return to its primary mission of providing quality and safe care to patients.

The California Nurses Association, a union representing registered nurses in California hospitals, has alleged that St. John’s management has interfered with, restrained and coerced its employees in the exercise of their rights and interrogated employees about their support for the union in the past six months.

The management has recently obtained a “union-busting firm,” Management Science Associates, to oppose the nurses’ efforts to join the California Nurses Association, the union alleges.

The Nurses Association filed federal labor charges last month with the National Labor Relations Board against St. John’s Health Center. Among the allegations in the complaint is that hospital management has threatened employees with discipline if they wear insignia in support of the union.

The Rev. Janet McKeithen of the Church in Ocean Park, a religious leader who supports the nurses’ effort, said, “Guidelines have been established for the safety of both the patients and those who care for them. If the guidelines are not being followed that means that patients are being put at risk.

“This community loves St. John’s hospital and so we stand with those who are trying to provide the excellent care that we expect from our community hospital.”

In response to the march December 17th, St. John’s Health Center management issued a statement calling for the Nurses Association to “cease its campaign of misinformation and disparaging remarks” about the hospital and its employees.

“Instead of demanding for recognition of the union without the nurses being permitted to vote in an election, we ask the union leaders to show true respect for all people and follow the legal process that has been established by federal law to protect the rights of all employees,” hospital management said. “While we will honor the decisions our employees make, we believe that working directly with our nurses collaboratively and professionally — without an outside third party — is the best way to achieve our healing mission.”