Some hospitals are dragging their feet on implementing the National Labor Relations Board's decision that charge nurses are not supervisors for purposes of collective bargaining units.
Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, the test case on which the board issued a voluminous decision in January, has refused to bargain with the Alaska Nurses Association, which won an election held in August 1994 by a 3-to-2 margin. The union filed an unfair labor practice complaint on April 4. The NLRB ordered the hospital to bargain on July 10. The hospital has filed an appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. If it loses there, it can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"We still believe that our charge nurses and certain other nurses are supervisors, under the National Labor Relations Act," said Janet Oates, director of marketing at Providence. "We feel that the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the board's view that the labor act automatically excluded patient-care duties as an element of authority."
The Supreme Court tossed out the NLRB's definition of supervisors and directed the board to rewrite it, which it did in the Providence case.
At Charter Wichita (Kan.) Mental Health System, the same thing is going on: Charter has refused to bargain and has appealed, objecting to the union's conduct in the election and saying certain nurses are supervisors.
"We intend to fully use the legal process," said Lynn Sokler, spokeswoman for Magellan Health Services, Charter's parent. "It's been 20 months since the ruling. Half the staff who voted for it are no longer there."
The Charter nurses voted Nov. 17, 1994, but their ballots were not counted until July 24, 1996. The count was 17-8 in favor of the union.
Charter's objections are "boilerplate," said Terri Roberts, executive director of the Kansas State Nurses Association, which organized the unit. "They are saying, `We dispute the election because of the same arguments."'
Roberts said she is confident the nurses will prevail. "We don't lose patience. We are Nurse Continued from p. 6
persistent," she said. "That's one thing about psychiatric nurses: They see this behavior, they recognize it, and they keep on going."
The NLRB will take 30 to 45 days to investigate the charge. "The hospitals certainly are within their rights to appeal a board decision," said Dave Parker, an NLRB spokesman. "After all, the board's decisions are not self-enforcing. They are enforced by the courts."
Barbara Sapin, a lawyer for the American Nurses Association, said the hospitals "are using the process to extend this out. They're hoping that people will lose interest and go away. The toll is on these folks and their right to organize. It's a very frustrating process.*.*.*.*Employers, especially in the healthcare industry, are very much tuned into delaying tactics."
"Look at these elections!" said Margaret A. McCann, an attorney with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "They've taken place in '94. It's two and a half years later. They still don't have a contract. The employer won't even sit down and meet with them.
"They say you have the right to organize and collectively bargain, but it's not happening."