Pols and Unions Blast Mount Sinai over Labor Practices

By Amy Zimmer on July 11, 2012 4:19pm | Updated on July 11, 2012 6:45pm

Mount Sinai Medical Center's 12-story, 500,000 square foot research center on Madison Avenue and East 102nd Street, is set to open in 2012, with six floors of lab space and two floors of outpatient clinical space.
Mount Sinai Medical Center's 12-story, 500,000 square foot research center on Madison Avenue and East 102nd Street, is set to open in 2012, with six floors of lab space and two floors of outpatient clinical space.
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Mount Sinai

MANHATTAN — Mount Sinai has backtracked on a promise to steer clear of a controversial commercial moving company that allegedly pays its workers less than a living wage — quietly rehiring the company despite vowing not to do so, commmunity and union leaders said.

Mount Sinai promised elected officials and labor leaders several months ago that it would drop its contract with the Long Island-based Moving Maven moving company, after City Council members Jessica Lappin and Melissa Mark-Viverito sent a letter to the hospital warning that the company pays its workers unfairly, advocates said.

But Mount Sinai quietly rehired the company last month, union and community leaders said, prompting critics to accuse the hospital of trying to cut costs in advance of its bid to merge with Continuum Health Partners. Continuum runs Beth Israel Medical Center, the New York Eye & Ear Infirmary and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, and the merger would produce a giant health care network.

“Mount Sinai has failed not once but twice in choosing Moving Maven, a company that does not pay its workers a fair wage,” Lappin said in a statement. “They must go back to the drawing board, and this time they need to get it right.”

Movers are employed by hospitals to move medical and office equipment and are especially needed during renovations — as Mount Sinai is presently undergoing — explained Teamsters Local 814 President Jason Ide.

Local 814 workers had a contract with Mount Sinai for nearly 20 years until about two years ago, Ide noted, claiming that the hospital told his union the other company was "a lot cheaper."

A Mount Sinai spokeswoman said this wasn't a fight within the hospital's purview, rather that it was between union factions.

"This is a dispute between unions and not a dispute that is within the control or influence of Mount Sinai," said Dorie Klissas, a spokeswoman for the hospital. "Our institution recently awarded a contract to the company Moving Maven, whose members are represented by either Local 1212 of the USWU or Local 660 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.  Mount Sinai only awards contracts to unionized firms."

Although Moving Maven is affiliated with USW Local 1212, some labor leaders claim it is a union in name only. Unlike Local 814, it is not certified by the AFL-CIO, the New York Central Labor Council and the Greater New York Building Trades Council to provide living wages and benefits, officials from 814 noted.

Officials from Teamsters Local 814  asked whether the hospital should be cutting corners in light of receiving a “C” grade on 26 safety indicators from industry watchdog the Leapfrog Group last month. (The teamsters also noted that NYU Langone Medical Center, which had been in talks with Continuum before Mount Sinai came along, received an “A.”)

“At a time when Mount Sinai is receiving poor safety grades from independent industry watchdogs and is seeking a massive merger, you would think the hospital would seek to do more to staff its facilities with trusted, well-trained workers,” Ide said. “This health care on-the-cheap philosophy is bad for workers and should concern patients.”

Moving Maven did not respond for comment.

But Mount Sinai defended its choice in hiring the company.

"We take steps to ensure that the awarding of work is fair and within the requirements of the city, the state and the National Labor Relations Board," Klissas said.

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