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Federal court sanctions BCH-Injunction orders hospital to stop interfering with nurses’ legal rights

Desert Dispatch, 6/27/13

BARSTOW • A U.S. District Judge in Los Angeles issued a federal injunction against Barstow Community Hospital, ordering it to cease and desist its violations of the collective bargaining rights of its registered nurses, according to a news release from the California Nurses Association on Wednesday.

Judge Christina Snyder issued the order in response to a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board following charges by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United that Barstow has repeatedly and systematically broken federal law with its refusal to hold contract talks and other abridgments of the RNs’ legal and democratic rights, the release states.

Mike Ziemer, 63, an RN at BCH in the Intensive Care Unit, said improving patient care at the hospital is at the heart of the nurse’s bargaining wishes. He said the nursing staff’s biggest issue is a high turnover rate and that they’d like to include greater incentives for nursing employees that would encourage them to stay longer. Incentives might include a room for on-call nurses to rest between shifts or be able to change clothes.

The staff would also like to create a professional practice committee that would help make decisions related to treatments and staffing levels, he said.

“Some of our nurses live in Victorville and they have to drive all the way here to take a call or they have to rent a room here,” he said. “They shouldn’t have to do that, they’re providing a service to the hospital.”

Ziemer has worked at BCH since 1975 and said he will retire within the next few years.

“I want to make sure that the hospital I leave is a good hospital,” Ziemer said. “This is not about money.”

BCH is affiliated with the nation’s second-largest for-profit hospital chain, Tennessee-based Community Health Systems, according to the CNA news release.

“We respect the Court and will return to the bargaining table to comply with the ruling,” said BCH spokesman John Rader on Wednesday via email.

The hospital was given one week, until July 1, to submit any opposition it may have to a request by the NLRB that the judge issue a further order, technically known as a “Section 10(j) injunction.”

A 10(j) would order the hospital to return to bargaining or face serious penalties that could range from fines to criminal contempt findings if it does not comply, the news release states. A hearing on that decision was set for July 29.

Another CHS hospital in California, Fallbrook Hospital in Northern San Diego County, was also issued a 10 (j) injunction earlier this month. Talks between Fallbrook and CNA-represented RNs have since resumed.

According to CNA, 10(j) court orders are rare and illustrate the severity of CHS’s stance on RN rights at its hospitals.

Under Judge Snyder’s ruling, the Barstow Hospital is directly ordered to cease and desist from: refusing to bargain in good faith with the union on terms and conditions of work, unilaterally changing unit nurses’ terms and conditions of employment, setting unreasonable demands as pre-conditions for bargaining and abruptly shortening or canceling bargaining sessions.

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