Law judge rules North Memorial violated labor law, orders hospital to reinstate fired worker

NLRBNorth Memorial Medical Center illegally fired one worker and unlawfully attempted to block others from participating in a campaign to fight staffing cuts and protect patient safety at the Robbinsdale hospital, an administrative law judge ruled Friday.

Acting on behalf of the National Labor Relations Board, Judge Christine Dibble upheld charges of unfair labor practices filed by two unions, the Minnesota Nurses Association and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, and she ordered North Memorial to reinstate Melvin Anderson, an SEIU member fired after joining informational picketing outside the hospital in June 2014, with back pay.

“By giving him his job back and paying back pay for the time they took from him, this ruling shows that workers can stand up for what is right for patients and workers and not have to fear for their job,” SEIU Healthcare Minnesota President Jamie Gulley said. “Melvin, and all of the members of SEIU and MNA who continue to stand up for patient safety, should take pride that this ruling only reinforces their fight.”

Members of the two unions staged informational picketing June 26, 2014, 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.

Union nurses and health care workers picketed outside North Memorial June 26.

Union nurses and health care workers picketed outside North Memorial June 26.

Management took action to block union organizers and officers from talking with members in the days before informational picketing, calling security guards to escort two union representatives off the property and forcing an off-duty nurse to change out of a union t-shirt.

Those actions, Dibble ruled, amount to an unlawful infringement on workers’ right to engage in “protected, concerted activity” regarding the terms and conditions of their employment, as enshrined in the National Labor Relations Act.

“We are pleased that the Board has vindicated our rights to represent our union and recognized the injustice of the employer’s attempt to harass and intimidate legitimate union activity,” MNA representative Joe McMahon said.

Specifically, the ruling confirmed that workers are entitled to have conversations with union staff or stewards in public areas – like a hospital’s cafeteria – free from intimidation or surveillance. Employers may not deny union representatives access to their property unless they are being disruptive, and employers may not prohibit union members or representatives from displaying union logos.

In addition to reinstating Anderson with back pay, the ruling requires North Memorial to post on its bulletin boards that it has committed the unfair labor practices and will halt them immediately.

North Memorial may file an exception to Dibble’s ruling. If no timely exception is filed, her findings become the NLRB’s official decision.

Read the full ruling here.

Read the Union Advocate’s report on the safe staffing campaign at North Memorial.

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