Hospital group sues over picket action


YOUNGSTOWN — Humility of Mary Health Partners sued the National Labor Relations Board to force the government agency to prevent a union from picketing one of its offices displaying a rat and banner.

According to the suit, filed in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, a rat and banner are used by members of Sheet Metal Workers Local 33 as they picket at HMHP because the union wants to organize a non-union business owned by one of the hospital’s employees.

HMHP said it has received numerous inquiries from its employees and the public about the meaning of the rat and banner and that it “invites and creates unwarranted and irreparable negative inferences about HMHP and its business practices.”

The HMHP employee being picketed, according to the suit, is Janet Thompson, HMHP’s regional director of revenue cycle integrity, who works at a building HMHP leases in Youngstown.

Thompson inherited Thompson Heating and Cooling, 219 North River Road, in Warren, when her husband died in 2007. It has some 15 employees, and has been a non-union company for the 50 years of its existence. She operates the business and works for HMHP.

Local 33 has displayed a union rat and a banner that reads: “Shame on Janet Thompson,” at the entrance to the HMHP office. The context of the rat/banner leads one to believe HMHP is a primary employer in a dispute with Local 33, according to the suit. The picketing also has as its purpose to “coerce HMHP, through the loss of good will, to force Mrs. Thompson, through a loss of employment or otherwise, to recognize Local 33 at her place of business.”

HMHP’s suit says a NLRB regional director and its Division of Advise have said that HMHP’s argument has merit. Yet, though the NLRB has not dismissed HMHP’s case, it has delayed acting “pending resolution of lead rat and banner cases,” which have been outstanding since 2004.

HMHP said there is no relationship or dispute between it and Local 33, and that Thompson does not do any Thompson Heating work while working for HMHP.

As a result, the hospital is seeking injunctive relief to prevent Local 33 from further display of the rat and banner and an expedited hearing on the matter. HMHP also wants reasonable costs and attorneys fees and other further relief that the court deems just and proper.

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