Call for unity earns a labor-board rebuke

A National Labor Relations Board panel recently determined that a New Jersey nursing home broke federal law by posting a memorandum pleading for staff unity after a tumultuous union vote.

Three days after an election occurred in March 2013 at the Care One at Madison Avenue facility in Morristown, NJ, Administrator George Arezzo posted the controversial memo.

It read, in part: “Even though we may have had different opinions on the union, I thought that after the election we would treat each other with dignity and respect and reunite our Madison Avenue family.”

The document added that some staff members appeared “unwilling to do this,” and some workers had engaged in “threats, intimidation and harassment.”

Attached to the memo was the facility's Workplace Violence Prevention policy, and a message that anyone found in violation would face discipline.

The memo violated the law, alleged the employee union, 1199 SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East. An administrative law judge agreed, as did a three-member NLRB panel, which issued a decision in mid-December.

According to the NLRB, the administrator's memo amounted to “promulgating a rule in response to union activity” and could have had the effect of limiting that activity. It went on to say that workers have a statutory right to advocate for a union even if the activity “annoys or disturbs” other employees.

The NLRB also said that the administrator's memo could be seen as providing “self-serving justifications,” because Arezzo did not present convincing evidence that threats and harassment had occurred. 

The NLRB ordered the operator to post a notice officially rescinding the memo, acknowledging it broke federal labor law, and outlining steps it will take to protect union organizing activities and fairly compensate workers.