Key nurse rulings could affect labor participation

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The National Labor Relations Board has determined that certain full-time hospital charge nurses are supervisors and therefore are not eligible to become members of unions. The pivotal decision could set a new standard for union membership, labor leaders say.

However, this ruling is one of three rulings handed down Tuesday. Another less publicized ruling casts a different light on nursing home conditions. In the "Golden Crest Healthcare Center" ruling, the NLRB concluded that charge nurses at the 80-bed Minnesota nursing home were not supervisors because they were not held accountable for the work of others. They also did not have the authority to assign others work or "responsibly direct" them, the board found. This means those nurses could be eligible for union membership.

This ruling is in contrast to the highly publicized, hospital-based "Oakwood Healthcare" decision, which had union leaders in an uproar. In that case, the NLRB ruled that registered nurses permanently assigned to charge duties qualify as management based on their exercise of independent judgment over other employees' duties. The ruling could exclude from the labor movement positions that previously sought union membership, labor leaders say.

In a third, related ruling, the NLRB came to a conclusion similar to the "Golden Crest" case. The result is a split set of decisions that should keep nursing supervisory roles open for heated debate in the future, legal experts said Wednesday.

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