North Memorial Hospital illegally retaliated against union nurses and health care workers who participated in a campaign to fight staffing cuts and protect patient safety at the Robbinsdale hospital, according to a complaint issued this week by the Minneapolis-based Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board.
The complaint finds merit to charges of unfair labor practices filed by two unions working together on the staffing campaign at North Memorial, the Minnesota Nurses Association and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. A press release issued jointly today detailed the unions’ charges.
MNA and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota filed charges with the NLRB after the hospital fired one employee, revoked work agreements and forced employees to work weekends, “repeatedly interrogated” staff about their union activities, warned employees and union staff that talking about unions was prohibited and threatened to file charges if discussions continued – all because they participated in the June picketing.
Members of the two unions staged informational picketing June 26 after hospital management moved unilaterally to cut staffing among nurses, dietary aides, housekeepers and other support workers. The cuts, workers said, made it more difficult for them to provide the quality of care North Memorial’s patients deserve.
Melvin Anderson, an SEIU member who took part in informational picketing, was fired from his position in the sterile processing unit at North Memorial – “a move alleged to be illegal by the NLRB,” according to the unions.
“Despite the challenges that North Memorial’s retaliation has caused for me, I don’t regret for one second that I spoke up for safe staffing levels and patient safety,” Anderson said. “I hope this ruling makes North Memorial understand that they can’t intimidate employees and that it is time to finally address their staffing levels. My co-workers are telling me that recent cuts in staff are putting their safety and patient safety at risk.”
The NLRB will hold a hearing on the case in January. If the board agrees that North Memorial committed unfair labor practices, it could order the hospital to compensate workers who were the target of harassment or retaliation, like Anderson.
Presidents from MNA and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota also commented on the complaint against North Memorial. MNA President Linda Hamilton:
North Memorial management’s actions were outrageous. Hospital staff were exercising their legal rights to a peaceful event to protest staffing plans that could endanger patient safety. The hospital should have used its energy to create safe staffing levels that ensure patient safety and allowed nurses to perform quality work.
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota President Jamie Gulley:
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members bravely raised their voices to address staffing levels at North Memorial in June, but instead of listening to their front line staff, North Memorial decided instead to retaliate against and even fire workers who took part in the informational picket. The ruling Tuesday from the NLRB recognized this for what it is: harassment and intimidation. As staffing levels continue to decline, posing increased risks to patients, North Memorial must stop retaliating against employees and should instead focus on making certain their hospital has safe staffing levels as they care for our families.