A Montana hospital that used a controversial U.S. Supreme Court labor ruling to oust its nurses union has been hit with unfair labor practice charges.
A federal administrative law judge assigned to the National Labor Relations Board has scheduled a Dec. 20 trial to hear arguments in the case.
Raymond Linder, labor relations director for the Montana Nurses Association, said he expects the hearing to last as long as three weeks.
"The hospital is going to have to prove that every one of the nurses is a supervisor," he said.
The MNA represented the approximately 90 registered nurses at Bozeman (Mont.) Deaconess Hospital until Oct. 31, when the hospital let the existing union contract expire after determining that the nurses shouldn't receive union representation.
The hospital based its decision on a May 23 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court said nurses who supervise lesser-skilled employees are supervisors as defined by the National Labor Relations Act and, hence, aren't eligible for union representation (May 30, p. 4).
The act protects workers' rights to unionize and engage in other collective actions regarding working conditions. The act doesn't apply to people who perform traditionally supervisory functions, such as hiring and firing.
In July, the hospital's board declared the nurses supervisors under the court's definition and said it would no longer deal with the MNA (Aug. 22, p. 3).
The action was believed to be the first attempt by a hospital to use the court decision to oust a standing nurses union. Other hospitals are trying to use the decision to challenge the composition of proposed bargaining units of nurses (Nov. 21, p. 76).
Mr. Linder said the attempt by Bozeman Deaconess to dump the union won't work because every nurse at the hospital can't be a supervisor.
In August, the MNA filed unfair labor practice charges against the hospital, which include an allegation of refusing to deal with the recognized collective bargaining agent of the nurses.
After an investigation into the charges, the Seattle office of the NLRB agreed with the union and last month charged the hospital with violating the National Labor Relations Act.
The six-page complaint said the MNA was the agent for the nurses, and the hospital violated the law by refusing to deal with the association and by changing the job descriptions of the nurses without union approval.
The attorney representing the hospital wasn't available for comment.
A ruling in the case isn't expected until next year.