The Seattle office of the National Labor Relations Board has determined that about 700 nurses, including supervisory nurses, employed at Providence Hospital in Anchorage, Alaska, are eligible for union representation.
Last month's decision is believed to be the first by the NLRB on the union eligibility of nurse supervisors since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in NLRB vs. Health Care and Retirement Corporation of America in May. The high court ruled that certain nurses at an Ohio nursing home weren't protected by the National Labor Relations Act because they supervised lesser-skilled workers (May 30, p. 4).
The act allows workers to unionize or engage in other collective actions without management interference. Workers who function as supervisors aren't protected by the act.
Labor groups said the court's decision had the potential of denying organizing rights to any worker who had even minor supervisory job duties.
In its labor dispute with its nursing staff, Providence Hospital challenged the composition of the nurses' bargaining unit because some of the nurses were charge nurses, or nurses assigned to oversee nursing care on their units on a given day. The hospital said the charge nurses were supervisors who weren't eligible to be represented by the Alaska Nurses Association for collective bargaining purposes.
The regional NLRB office rejected the hospital's argument, ruling there was no evidence to establish that charge nurses possessed any responsibilities of a true supervisor, such as the authority to hire and fire workers.
Hospital executives were unavailable for comment on whether they'll appeal to the NLRB in Washington.