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Approximately 75 health care union members demonstrated outside the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for two hours yesterday in an attempt "to send a wake up call" to CHOP management. Claiming that the hospital is trying to undermine the union, AFSCME District 1199C President Henry Nicholas called for the removal of "the union-busting" Marriott Corporation, which manages food services and housekeeping for the hospital. "We are here because we believe this hospital is involved in a systematic attack to undermine the union and collective bargaining and we will not stand for it," Nicholas said. The union represents dietary workers, housekeeping, supply aides, skilled maintenance workers and some clerical workers, which constitutes less than 15 percent of CHOP employees, said Pat Rocchi, a spokesperson for CHOP. Protestors claim that Marriott has systematically tried to bust the union but did not state any specific incidents. "Marriott is making it harder for us to work here," said Martha Patterson, a nurse's aide at CHOP who is a member of the executive board of the union. "They came in with the idea that they were going to try to bust the union." But Rocchi said that CHOP was not aware of any union busting attempts by Marriott. "We find it hard to respond to this," Rocchi said. "We were not aware of any specific issues related to union-busting or to the Marriott corporation." The protest consisted of members of the 13,000-member city-wide union, all of whom work at area hospitals. The protest at CHOP was one in a series of protests that took place at area hospitals yesterday, in an effort to strengthen union solidarity for upcoming contract negotiations. According to Nicholas, 86 city hospital contracts will be up for renewal on July 1. Rocchi said yesterday that it was "unfortunate" that the demonstration was held. "It is unfortunate that the union officials do this because we haven't discussed it [with the union] yet," he said. "We have a meeting coming up on [November] 26. We've never even discussed it." The city-wide union is attempting to encourage early contract talks, and is critical of what they see as management's anti-union treatment. "We're going for early contracts for everyone," said Dave Shahade, a union organizer. "This place has been real hard-headed." Nicholas said that the union would attempt to obtain similar contracts at each of the hospitals. Nicholas also said that CHOP has asked Blue Cross/Blue Shield for a quote for its health benefits plan without first discussing benefits with the employees. "We will not let them dictate what health care benefits and wages will be," said Nicholas. "Only members will dictate. We will close them down if necessary."

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