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National Catholic Labor Group Admonishes Trinity Health After NLRB Issues Complaint to Mercy Medical Center for Retaliating Against Nurses’ Union Activity

Mercy Medical Center nurses are engaged in negotiations to secure a fair contract that improves conditions for patients and nurses

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. –  The Catholic Labor Network, a national group focused on social justice and supporting workers, has sent a letter to the Chief Executive Officer of Trinity Health of New England after learning that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a formal complaint against Trinity Health of New England, finding that the hospital violated federal law protecting employees when they engage in union activity by reporting two Mercy Medical Center nurses to the Board of Registration in Nursing (BORN).

The letter to CEO Dr. Reginald Eadie says the network is “deeply concerned” about the unlawful retaliation and quotes ethical and religious directives of the Catholic Church that say Catholic healthcare institutions like Trinity must treat “employees respectfully and justly.” This includes “the rights of employees to organize and bargain collectively without prejudice to the common good.”

“The right to organize and bargain collectively is foundational once in modern Catholic Social Teaching, dating back to Pope Leo XIII’s Encyclical Rerum Novarum,” Clayton Synai, president of the Catholic Labor Network, wrote in the letter to Trinity. “We deplore this incident and urge Trinity to resume bargaining in a form consistent with Ethical and Religious Directive #7…”

The NLRB in May 2021 issued a formal complaint detailing that Trinity management submitted written allegations to the BORN last summer about two nurses because, according to the NLRB, the nurses “assisted the Union and engaged in protected concerted activities and/or to discourage employees from engaging in such activities,” therefore violating the National Labor Relations Act provision that says it is “unlawful for an employer to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of their rights.” Trinity’s complaints against the nurses were completely unfounded and fabricated only to intimidate and threaten them for engaging in union activities.

“Instead of listening to nurses and improving patient care and working conditions, Trinity Health decided to retaliate against my protected union activity by filing a complaint that jeopardized my nursing license and also forced me to hire a lawyer to fight for my license,” said Alex Wright, RN, and Co-Chair of the MNA Bargaining Committee at Mercy Medical Center, one of the nurses involved. “This sort of behavior shows how intent Trinity is on undermining nurses’ collective voices rather than giving us an equal seat at the table to make positive changes for nurses, patients and our community.”

Throughout the pandemic, Mercy nurses have engaged in public action calling for improved safety standards for patients, nurses, and other healthcare workers. They held two informational pickets in May and August of 2020 about conditions related to working during the pandemic, and held a picket this spring to protest Trinity’s refusal to agree to a fair contract that improves patient care and working conditions.

Following the complaint, the parties reached a board settlement, resulting in a posting Trinity had to send to all MNA members at Mercy (and former members at Providence Hospital) which spelled out the conditions that Mercy would follow and stating that they would not violate or interfere with members’ National Labor Relations Act rights. The posting went up at the hospital in multiple locations. Trinity also agree to pay legal “and other” fees for the nurses involved.

Email for a copy of the notice and/or the letter from the Catholic Labor Network.

The NLRB is an independent federal agency vested with the power to safeguard employees' rights to organize and to determine whether to have unions as their bargaining representative, according to its website. The agency also acts to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions. BORN oversees the statutes and regulations that govern nursing practice and nursing education in Massachusetts.

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Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.