Unions howling over NLRB nurses rulings
An anxious nursing community erupted in protests recently when the National Labor Relations Board ruled that some charge nurses should be classified as supervisors. That distinction makes them ineligible for union membership.Lost on many, however, was the fact that the set of three rulings handed down simultaneously meant different things to different providers.
The most high-profile case involved a hospital that was deemed to have 1 in 10 charge nurses ineligible for possible union membership.
Another decision involving a Minnesota nursing home, however, found that none of its charge nurses held supervisory roles. That would appear to broaden the sector's future pool of possible union members.
What's clear from the rulings is that the issue will become more contentious in the years ahead, according to experts.
In a landmark decision, the National Labor Relations Board ruled 3-0 that charge nurses in long-term care settings are not supervisors. The ruling could make it legal for hundreds of thousands of charge nurses to unionize.
The charge nurses in the Golden Crest case lacked the authority to assign and responsibly direct other employees, the board determined. While charge nurses may direct other workers, the lead individuals did not exercise independent judgment in doing so, the board unanimously concluded.
The panel also rejected Golden Gate National Senior Care Center's contention that annual reviews considered how well employees direct others. The chain must negotiate a new labor agreement with charge nurses, as part of the ruling.
In a separate 3-2 decision, the board found that full-time charge nurses at an Oakwood Heritage Hospital in suburban Detroit do act as supervisors, and are therefore ineligible for union protections under federal law. A dozen full-time charge nurses were deemed to fill supervisory roles, while more than 100 others who rotated duties were not.
In the Oakwood case, the NLRB sharpened its definition of terms such as "assign" and "independent judgment," saying in part that someone classified as a supervisor needed to face accountability for the actions of his or her subordinates.
"Healthcare and particularly nurses have been one of the areas where the labor movement really has been making some strides in organizing," said Paul F. Clark, head of the Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at Penn State University.