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A suit over picking scabs has opened fresh wounds in the Sutter Health labor dispute with the Service Employees International Union Local 250. In a suit filed Monday in San Francisco Superior Court, temporary staffing firm Healthcare Consulting alleges that competitor Crisis Nurse stole proprietary lists of contractors, which it allegedly used to lure away replacement nurses. The trade secret suit is the latest in a fusillade of legal actions sparked by the hospital labor fight. Most of those legal actions have been initiated by lawyers for Local 250, which has been locked in a contentious contract dispute with Sutter since the summer over union demands that employees have greater input on staffing levels and more comprehensive training. The union has brought multiple lawsuits and most of the 100-plus unfair labor practice claims filed with the National Labor Relations Board in what promises to be one of the most legally contentious labor fights in recent history. Union officials and employer-side attorneys say the large amount of lawyering is emblematic of both the contentious nature of the dispute and the tactics increasingly used by unions to pressure employers during bargaining. “It’s an attempt by a labor organization to put pressure on the employer in ways other than the traditional strike,” said Robert Kristoff, a partner at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker who represents employers. “[Local] 250 is one of the more sophisticated unions in California. They have bright leadership, and they’re looking to bring pressure.” Indeed, 11 days before Healthcare Consulting filed its suit over replacement workers, Local 250 had filed its own action against Sutter, California Pacific Medical Center and another staffing firm for running ads for nurses that failed to mention they would be replacing striking workers, an alleged violation of state Labor Code ��970 and 973. Healthcare Consulting’s lawyer, Denis Kenny, refused to comment on his case, while a spokesman for Crisis Nurse said his company had yet to be served with the suit. In the Sutter dispute, the unions are pressuring the hospitals with suits for allegedly bullying union members and unfairly advertising for replacement workers, claims that relate directly to the dispute. But in September, the union exerted pressure from a different angle when it began assisting Weinberg, Roger & Rosenfeld partner William Sokol in one of many suits brought against Sutter for allegedly overcharging uninsured patients. “The union has a mission that is twofold,” said Local 250 President Sal Roselli: “To help organize the workers to improve their lives and to create access to universal health care.” In the name of pursuing the second goal, he said, union staff have been seeking out potential clients for the suit. Sokol said the hospital and union are so contentious that they cannot help but turn up the legal volume. “It’s a whole lot of Sturm und Drang. It’s not about dollars and cents,” he said. Fred Curtis “Curt” Kirschner Jr., a partner at O’Melveny & Myers who represents Alta Bates, says Local 250 has been particularly standoffish and aggressive in labor disputes. “The pattern of having a number of unfair labor practice charges filed and filing a number of lawsuits is similar to what the union did in the last round of negotiations” in 2000 and 2001, he said. But Sokol said this latest round has kept him busier. With Weinberg Roger on retainer, Sokol and union president Roselli said they’ll continue to litigate current cases and file new ones as long as the standoff with Sutter continues. “Whatever we have to do to win that’s legal, we’ll do it,” Roselli said.

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