After several months of controversy over management woes and staff protests, LGBT healthcare provider Mazzoni Center is now under more scrutiny following the recent hiring and abrupt firing of an alt-right-leaning consulting firm called Creative Solutions & Visions, LLC.
When Mazzoni workers officially announced on August 10th that they were considering joining the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Mazzoni hired Creative Solutions & Visions to help “educate” the staff on the ramifications of such a step. (An authorizing vote is scheduled for Wednesday, September 13th.) However, according to several front-line and middle-tier staff members who requested anonymity to speak openly, Mazzoni’s engagement of the firm has felt like “a form of intimidation.”
“Mazzoni doesn’t want us to unionize because that will weaken their control over us,” a current employee said. “They hired Creative Solutions, which has promoted hate speech and offensive anti-union remarks, as a way to scare us from unionizing. … Their presence in the office was very cold and intimidating.”
On its official website, Creative Solutions describes its staff as “former union officials, former union organizers, [and] labor experts” who offer services such as “union avoidance.” The firm does not publicly list any previous clients, but its site’s affiliates section includes contact information for a vice-chairman of a Florida county Republican executive committee.
But over the past year, the firm’s social media presence on both Facebook and Twitter has posted messages in support of President Trump and building a wall to bar Muslims and undocumented individuals, racially charged memes that mocked MLK, and overtly jingoistic anti-union imagery. Screenshots obtained by G Philly of now-deleted posts and tweets show the organization retweeting heavily from alt-right organizations such as USA First 4 Ever, which is also owned by Creatives Solutions CEO Keith Peraino. (Creative Solutions & Visions declined G Philly’s request for comment.)
Once Mazzoni staff members discovered the social media posts, they immediately contacted Mazzoni’s upper-level management, only to face what they characterized as “delayed responses and excuses.” “We were told after several requests for [Mazzoni management] to look into their social media activity that Creative Solutions had their page hacked,” a front-line staff member said. “But these hateful posts were made on Facebook, Twitter, and on Keith Peraino’s alt-right organization’s social media pages as well. I don’t believe this could all have been an accident or mistake.”
G Philly obtained an August 25th email sent to all staff by Mazzoni interim executive director Stephen Glassman, which has been published in full by Philly Weekly, informing them that he “apologize[s] to all of you for not having more thoroughly researched [Creative Solutions and Vision’s] social media feeds” and that “[Peraino] has taken corrective action and is drafting a letter of apology which will be directed to all of our staff.” Despite the apology, however, Glassman still intended to keep the firm on contract: “I hope that you will accept their sincere apology and cooperate with them as they work with you to share information about the National Labor Relations Act during the time they will be on site.”
Continuing to work with Creative Solutions after the social media dispute did not sit well with many on staff, who have also received anti-unionization flyers with headlines such as “Mazzoni benefits … or SEIU bargaining chips?” “There were a lot of heated arguments between senior management and front-line staff after [Glassman’s email],” a case manager said. “The tension across the office was thick, and the trust was ultimately lost after that. People who initially had mixed feelings on whether to unionize or not began to see the need to after Glassman made the decision to keep a super-conservative organization on payroll.”
Approximately a week after Glassman’s initial email, staff say, Mazzoni made the decision to officially cut ties with Creative Solutions & Visions. Asked for an explanation of the reversal, the organization sent the sent the following statement to G Philly:
As you are no doubt aware, the SEIU filed a petition for an election with the National Labor Relations Board to determine whether certain members of our staff want the SEIU to be its collective bargaining representative. We believe it is important for our staff to be fully educated about the National Labor Relations Act, collective bargaining, and unions before making this important decision. Creative Solutions and Visions was originally hired to do this. We believed that this firm’s prior experience as representatives of the SEIU, the fact that the owner is a registered nurse, and their experience with health care organizations, would be beneficial. However, we subsequently received reports from members of our staff that Creative Solutions has expressed political beliefs on their social media sites that do not align with our organizational goals and values. Steve Glassman spoke with the owner personally and was told that their sites had been hacked. Steve promptly reported this to Mazzoni staff with whom he had met. When Steve subsequently discovered that this was not the full extent of the damaging information related to this firm he acted quickly to resolve the issue. After reviewing the matter with staff and members of the management team, we made the decision that it was in the best interest of our organization to terminate our contract with Creative Solutions and to hire Joe Brock from the Labor Relations Institute to perform the same functions. Mr. Brock was selected because of his prior experience as a union representative and because we believe his views align with those of Mazzoni Center.
“We had to force Mazzoni to cut ties with a group that supports Trump,” a long-time staff member said. “For all the years I’ve worked here, it seems as though this nonprofit can’t seem to believe the concerns of its patients or staff the first time. Perhaps it’s time for someone else to.”