Business

Home care workers say company thwarting union efforts

A group of Boston home care workers say their company is trying to thwart their attempts to unionize, forcing them to cancel appointments with elderly clients to attend anti-union meetings, even promising $1,000 bonuses for some if they keep workers from organizing.

“What they’re doing to us, it’s creating a lot of fear,” Mun Ying, a 49-year-old part-time home care worker, said in Chinese through an interpreter. “We should be caring for our clients, not going to these meetings.”

Ying works out of the Boston branch of Newton-based Medical Resources Home Health Corp., which has eight offices across the state.

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Following an organizing campaign by the local health care workers union 1199 SEIU, Boston caregivers are holding a mail-in union vote this week overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.

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In e-mails Tuesday, Medical Resources president Lesley Nolan refuted each of the allegations.

“We recognize that all employees have the right to cast their vote and to make a free and fair decision about such representation, and we respect these rights deeply,” Nolan wrote. “We have not done anything to interfere with any employee’s right to organize or select a union under the law, and we will continue to provide an open and respectful environment where all our employees are free to express their views and opinions.”

Veronica Turner, an 1199 SEIU executive vice president, said the company’s tactics were the most egregious she’d seen in recent years.

Making matters worse, Turner said, Medical Resources is paid $22 per client hour for Medicare and Medicaid clients and is therefore using state money to fund its anti-union campaign.

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The company set up robocalls encouraging workers to vote no, according to the union. Schedulers were told they would be paid overtime to send personal notes to the workers urging them to vote no, and promised a $1,000 bonus if they successfully kept workers from unionizing, the union said.

“Medical Resources is acting no better than Walmart or McDonald’s. It’s really deplorable,” Turner said.

Some of the tactics alleged by the union could violate the National Labor Relations Act, including telling employees they will start getting paid holidays if this week’s union vote fails, and encouraging workers to bring their ballots to work before mailing them in.

Collectively, all these actions could have a “chilling effect” on the workers, said Allyson Every, executive director of the Labor Guild, a labor-management relations organization in Weymouth.

The union said Medical Resources, which pays its workers $10 to $12 an hour, distributed fliers stating the union would not have an impact on the rate that the state pays the company, which it said determines the amount that Medical Resources can pay the workers.

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Unionized home health care workers in Massachusetts make $13.38 an hour.

Katie Johnston can be reached at katie.johnston@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.