Agreement Responds to the Hospital’s Illegal Attempt to De-authorize the Nurses’ Union
BROCKTON — The management of Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital has been forced to post a public notice this month for its registered nurses, pledging that the hospital will not engage in efforts to unlawfully interfere with, interrogate, or in any way pursue efforts to wage a campaign to undermine the nurses’ union – the Massachusetts Nurses Association. The notice is the result of a settlement agreement negotiated by the National Labor Relations Board in response to unfair labor practice charges filed by the MNA against the hospital in December 2007.
At the time, the hospital, in violation of the federal labor law, was working with a small group of nurses to engineer a petition drive among the nurses calling for the de-authorization of the MNA as the union for the 350 nurses at the hospital. The hospital’s efforts immediately followed successful efforts by the union to work with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration to expose and address inadequate policies by the hospital in response to longstanding problems with workplace violence at the facility.
“The hospital was reprimanded by OSHA because of our efforts to use our union rights to improve our working conditions and they didn’t like that,” said Kathy Metzger, an operating room nurse and chair of the nurses’ MNA local bargaining unit. “Instead of focusing on the problems raised by the union, they decided to retaliate against the nurses by engaging in an illegal and unseemly effort to weaken and undermine the union as a part of what the union believes was the employer’s overall plan to rid itself of the union altogether. We are pleased that their unconscionable behavior has been exposed and repudiated.”
Nurses identified the hospital’s illegal activity when a mailing to nurses of the petition for de-authorization displayed a mailing label with hospital-specific coding that could only have originated from a mailing list provided by hospital management. It is unlawful for employers to provide any support to employees in such anti-union activities. The nurses also received reports that hospital supervisors and managers were working closely with a small group of nurses to facilitate the campaign.
The NLRB brokered the settlement after one of the nurses involved in the campaign submitted an affidavit admitting that she had received support, including the mailing labels for all nurses, from management as alleged by the MNA.
Even with the hospital’s assistance, the campaign to de-authorize the union received little or no support from the nurses at the hospital. In fact, the effort served to strengthen the union.
“The hospital’s behavior in this and similar matters over the years has only underscored the need for and the value of a union for nurses,” said Metzger. “We hope the Board of Trustees and our community takes notice of these practices and works with us to foster a more positive and respectful relationship between management and the nurses of Brockton Hospital.