Mass. NOW and 1199SEIU call on Beth Israel board to take action against 'environment of inequity' during annual board meeting September 23rd
BOSTON, Sept. 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The state's largest healthcare workers union and the Massachusetts chapter of the National Organization for Women released a joint statement today calling on the board of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to fire CEO Paul Levy when it convenes its annual meeting at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston on Thursday, September 23rd.
The statement by Mass. NOW State Director Christina Knowles and 1199SEIU Executive Vice President Veronica Turner follows remarks by Attorney General Martha Coakley who said the board should rethink Levy's ability to continue leading the hospital. The official statement from Knowles and Turner reads:
"If the BIDMC board fails to take further action at its September 23rd annual meeting – specifically by asking for the resignation of CEO Paul Levy – then it is aiding and abetting Levy in his creation of a hostile and inequitable work environment for women at the hospital.
If the BIDMC board does not fire Paul Levy, they are indicating that a single executive is more important than the legacy and working environment of the hospital itself. In a state where 86% of nurse aides and 94% of nurses are women, the Attorney General is correct that the board must seriously question whether Paul Levy is still fit to lead Beth Israel Deaconess.
It is time for the board to take a stand against the environment of inequity that has been created within the hospital by the prior inaction of the board chairs and by the actions of its CEO. If any other worker had inflicted similar damage to the institution or its work environment, they would be fired. As the annual meeting approaches, the BIDMC board needs to remember that its first duty to taxpayers and patients is protecting the hospital, not its chief executive."
- Christina Knowles, State Director, Mass. NOW
- Veronica Turner, Executive Vice President, 1199SEIU
Additional background and patterns of inequity at BIDMC
Attorney General Martha Coakley issued a report last week that revealed facts confirming that some board members had knowingly sat on their hands since 2003 while Levy engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate employee. During that time, the report shows that the employee's salary doubled as she became the "only non-physician, director level employee, to receive a performance bonus for all four years from 2005-2008."
The report found no reason to believe the employee was not qualified for her positions. However, it explained that her hiring, promotions, and pay increases "will always be subject to the perception they may have been influenced as much by the personal relationship with Levy as by her own professional performance."
Also according to the AG report, "The personal relationship between the CEO and the Employee... endangered the reputation of the institution and its management."
The report explains that, "...it is now clear the entire Board should have been informed and taken action years before the lodging of the Complaint."
During this period, BIDMC had as few as three women members amongst the Board of 15. BIDMC currently counts only one woman among the chiefs of its 14 major clinical departments.
Two women chiefs have left under Levy's tenure, and one – a thirty year veteran stripped of her title while on sabbatical – has filed a gender discrimination lawsuit naming both Levy and BIDMC. That lawsuit by Dr. Carol Warfield alleges that she was forced to endure "sexist rants and demeaning conduct… and the insistence on the part of the Hospital's CEO [Levy] that she tolerate such misconduct as part of the price of being Chief."
The hospital has expended significant resources to defend Levy, fighting unsuccessfully against Warfield's right to sue for discrimination all the way to Massachusetts' highest court in an attempt to deny her and other employees their civil rights and the full protection of anti-discrimination laws.
Against Levy's objections, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) both backed Warfield's right – and that of other employees at BIDMC – to full legal protection against discrimination.
Levy first hired the subordinate employee with whom he had his "inappropriate relationship" in February 2002 as a direct report and special assistant. By May of 2002, Levy had laid off 600 other workers, many of whom were women working in frontline or blue collar positions. Low-wage departments like dietary and housekeeping were cut to the bone. Meanwhile, many of the remaining workers went without a living wage, or endured cuts to healthcare and other benefits.
After losing up to $28 million dollars in a botched hospital real estate deal, Levy said another 600 positions had to be cut in February 2009, but did not acknowledge the real estate losses as the real reason for the hospital's fiscal crisis. Having leveraged fears of further layoffs to impose wage and benefit cuts, Levy took credit for saving the jobs of workers within the lower-wage departments which he had both eviscerated in 2002 and endangered again through real estate gambles.
As these workers suffered, the board chairs did nothing despite knowing of Levy's "inappropriate relationship" with the subordinate employee, and despite the AG's finding that "...no decision regarding the Employee was immune from [Levy's] influence."
The National Organization for Women (NOW) is the largest organization of feminist activists in the United States. NOW has 500,000 contributing members and 550 chapters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Since its founding in 1966, NOW's goal has been to take action to bring about equality for all women. NOW works to eliminate discrimination and harassment in the workplace, schools, the justice system, and all other sectors of society; secure abortion, birth control and reproductive rights for all women; end all forms of violence against women; eradicate racism, sexism and homophobia; and promote equality and justice in our society.
Representing more than 35,000 healthcare workers throughout Massachusetts, and 370,000 workers in Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Florida, and Washington, D.C., 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in America. Our mission is to achieve affordable, high quality healthcare for all. 1199SEIU is part of the 2.1 million member Service Employees International Union.
SOURCE 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East