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Hospital Workers Union|Fights Flu Shots

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A hospital workers union claims that several California hospitals' demands that they either get an H1N1 flu vaccine shot or wear a mask around patients violates their collective bargaining agreement. SEIU Local 121RN sued Healthcare Corporation of America in Federal Court.

Nurses, medical assistants and other service workers at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center, West Hills Hospital and Medical Center, and Riverside Community Hospital say they were told they must be vaccinated if they work around patients, and if they refuse the vaccine, they must wear surgical masks. Employees who refuse "will be considered to have voluntarily declined his/her position," the complaint states.

The plaintiff - Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers-West - claims the hospitals must consult with the union before implementing policies that "would be hazardous to the employee's physical safety in violation of state or federal law."

The mandatory immunization discriminates against employees who object to it, the union says. It claims there is no medical justification for making H1N1 vaccinations mandatory for hospital employees.

"The unions believe that the receipt of any medical treatment is up to the individual patient and that education, not brute force, is the best way to encourage any person to receive medical care," the complaint states.

The union also claims that forcing employees to wear nametags that identify who has and who has not been vaccinated invades employees' privacy.

Matthew Gauger, an attorney representing the union, was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

The union demands that the hospital put its mandatory immunization policy on hold until the matter can be arbitrated. It is represented by Matthew Gauger with Weinberg, Roger and Rosenfeld of Sacramento.

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