An administrative law judge has rejected Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital's allegations that improper election tactics were used during a unionization vote late last year.

Hospital administrators claimed supporters of the National Union of Healthcare Workers engaged in electioneering near polling places and intimidated workers. They asked that the election results be "set aside" and that a new vote be conducted.

But the judge, William L. Schmidt, in May 28 report, said there was insufficient evidence to sustain Memorial's objections and recommended that the National Labor Relations Board certify NUHW as the exclusive collective bargaining unit for the employees.

"I am very excited. I'm very excited to move forward with organizing a union at Memorial Hospital," said Melissa BoSanco, a Memorial care partner and NUHW organizer

BoSanco said the administrative law judge's ruling is an affirmation of years of organizing at Memorial. "It was a clean election we had," she said. "It shows that the majority of workers at Memorial want to organize."

The December vote affects about 700 hospital employees, including radiology and respiratory technicians, nurses' aides, housekeepers and dietary workers.

Debra Miller, Memorial's vice president of human resources, called Schmidt's recommendation "a disappointment."

She said hospital officials lodged their objections because numerous employees who opposed union representation asked them to do so.

"The election in December was so close, I mean it was decided literally by one or two votes," she said.

Fawn Kraut, a business coordinator for surgical services, was among those <NO1><NO>who voted for no union representation. She said she hoped the hospital <NO1><NO>would appeal Schmidt's recommendation. Memorial has until June 11 to do so.

"We don't have an organizing machine to help us be heard and yet we showed up to vote," she said.

In the initial count, the NUHW captured 283 votes, while 263 workers chose not to be represented. Another union, the United Healthcare Workers affiliated with the <NO1><NO>Service Employees International Union, garnered 13 votes.

Memorial challenged 17 ballots, but only 13 were sustained, leaving the four remaining ballots insufficient to change the outcome of the election. Memorial also raised objections to how the election was conducted.

Aside from the charges of improper electioneering, Schmidt reviewed hospital claims that union representatives videotaped employees as they attended employer-sponsored meetings. Administrators also claimed that NLRB agents failed to monitor and prevent improper conduct in the voting area and that the board created a "confusing" ballot that displayed voters' choices in different fonts and styles.

Trish Kral, a business coordinator for critical care services at Memorial, also said she hoped hospital administrators would appeal<NO1><NO>. She said she's never had a problem working out "issues" with Memorial's management.

"I didn't have to bring an entire hospital out on strike to prove my point," she said. "Unions are big business. It's not necessary in this environment."

But Shirley Cervelli, a licensed vocational nurse with Memorial's telemetry unit, said that in recent years employees have lost their voice in how to care for patients.

Cervelli, a nurse for four decades who has worked at Memorial for 29 years, said hopes people like Kral and Kraut will "come around" and work with the union once it's finally certified by the NLRB.

"The union is not an outside entity, the union is us," she said.