Court orders Advocate to recognize nurses union
A federal judge ruled Friday that Advocate Health Care must temporarily recognize the Illinois Nurses Association, a union created by nurse practitioners. This will be the first nurses union recognized by the state's largest hospital network.
Advocate's hand was forced when it outsourced operations at 56 in-store Walgreens clinics in the Chicago area last year. The INA represents about 160 nurse practitioners who work in the clinics.
An order on the petition, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, will be formally entered on Aug. 18. Then, Advocate will be legally bound recognize and negotiate terms with the INA, at least until a decision on the original complaint is reached.
"We're really excited," said Alice Johnson, executive director of the INA. "We're going to be able to come to the bargaining table with negotiations to address the issues that the nurses care about."
Johnson said the INA plans to negotiate with Advocate over the nurses' safety, hours and pay. Sometimes, nurse practitioners are left in the clinics alone at night without trained security guards, Johnson said. Other times, she said, Advocate forces nurses to float to different locations.
Downers Grove-based Advocate plans to appeal the decision, said spokeswoman Lisa Lesniak, in an emailed statement.
"We respect our associates' rights to consider union membership," Lesniak said. "At the same time, we greatly value our direct relationship with associates, which is key to providing the optimal environment to deliver the best outcomes for patients."
Johnson countered by calling Advocate "anti-union," and saying the company's attempt to appeal was a waste of time and money that would be better spent on improving workplace conditions.
"Nurses organized because of the way they're being treated," Johnson said. "Advocate can solve a lot of their own problems by treating their employees better."
After the deal with Walgreens, the clinics, formerly named Take Care Clinics, were renamed Advocate Clinics. When the switch was announced, operations and staffing continued largely unchanged. At the time, the INA said Advocate would not meet with the union and did not recognize it.
INA filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board in June. Extra charges were added in September. The NLRB transferred the case to federal court in March 2017.
Advocate will have to bargain with the INA until an administrative law judge from the district court decides on the merits of the original complaint. Advocate and Johnson both said they are unsure when the judge would issue a ruling.
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