St. Vincent Hospital Nurses will vote next month on whether to decertify MNA representation




  • In Business
  • 2022-01-13 23:42:11Z
  • By Worcester Telegram & Gazette
 

WORCESTER - The National Labor Relations Board has scheduled a February election on whether to decertify the Massachusetts Nurses Association as the union representing nurses at St. Vincent Hospital.

The election - agreed to by the MNA, petitioners seeking the decertification, and the hospital - will be conducted by secret mail ballot.

All nurses employed by the hospital will be mailed ballots Feb. 4, and they will have until Feb. 25 to return them. The NLRB will conduct a final count Feb. 28.

The MNA expressed confidence they would defeat the effort being led by permanent replacement nurses and nurses who crossed the picket line during the nine-month-long strike.

"We have no doubt that we will defeat this effort and understand that it is an unwelcome distraction at a time when our main focus is to complete the recall process so we can resume providing care to our patients and our community, supported by the vital protections and other benefits we secured through our hard fought strike," David Schildmeier, MNA spokesperson, said in a statement. "As we complete the recall process, the support for the strike and the overwhelming vote by the nurses in favor of the agreement (487-9 in favor) clearly demonstrates the tremendous unity among the majority of the St. Vincent nurses, and our commitment to maintaining our union rights."

More: St. Vincent Hospital nurses overwhelmingly approve contract, ending strike

The National Right to Work Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks to advance right-to-work laws and is representing the petitioners, said it was important that the nurses will get a chance to voice their opinions on the union.

"The bottom line is employees get the chance to vote," Mark Mix, president of the foundation, said in an interview Thursday. "Regardless of the outcome, the employees will have a chance to have a say and that's the important part."

The hospital had no comment beyond its statement from when the petition was first filed.

"We respect the legal right of our nurses to choose whether or not they wish to be represented by a union," Matt Clyburn, St. Vincent Hospital spokesperson, said.

The replacement nurses and nurses who crossed the picket line filed a petition with the NLRB on Dec. 20 to drop the MNA as the union representing nurses at the hospital.

Contract ratified Jan. 3

The filing came days after the hospital and the union reached a tentative agreement to end a nursing strike that, by that time, had surpassed nine months. The nurses ratified the agreement Jan. 3.

The process of recalling striking nurses to the hospital began last week. Nurses have until Saturday to inform the hospital if they are returning, and until Jan. 22 to come back and attend a reorientation session.

More: 'Mutual healing time' at St. V: Can striking nurses, replacements hospital work together?

The MNA warned, however, that decertifying the union would mean nurses would "lose" the contract "along with any and all union rights and protections, including the legal right to enforce any of the terms and benefits of that agreement."

"Without a union, nurses become "at will employees" subject to termination for any reason other than the limited protections of federal law and there is no obligation by the employer to honor any of the terms of the contract, nor would the nurses have any legal means to stop an employer from changing those terms at any given time now or in the future," Schildmeier said in the statement. "We believe once all the nurses understand what is at stake in this election, many who are pursuing this avenue will vote with the overwhelming majority who support our union."

Mix said his group would "not oppose" the St. Vincent nurses voting to form their own union should they decide to.

However, such a vote could not be held for a year, according to the NLRB.

Alleged unfair labor practice charge

In a separate development, the NRWF announced Thursday afternoon that a St. Vincent Hospital nurse filed a federal charge against the MNA for allegedly illegally demanding that nurses pay union dues while there was no contract in effect between the hospital and the union.

According to the right to work foundation, the MNA sent a bill to nurse Regina Renaud and others who are not union members which ordered them to pay dues for "a time period that included the contract hiatus."

"Thus, MNA is demanding and attempting to collect retroactive dues for several past months in which the (Renaud) and other similarly situated nurses did not owe any dues and could not legally be required to pay such dues as a condition of employment…," the NRWF said the unfair labor practice charge states.

Schildmeier said he had not seen the charge, but believed a clerical error was to blame for any dispute over dues.

He attached a Jan. 12 letter sent to all nurses which said that a billing/renewal notice had been sent as a "clerical oversight" while the MNA was updating its files. The letter said that all dues are being "written off" for nurses during the duration of the strike and through the transition back to the workplace.

"The charge by this organization is spurious and has absolutely no validity," Schildmeier said.

This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: St. Vincent Hospital nurses set for February vote on whether to decertify MNA representation

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