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Labor relations board to hear retaliation complaints against Sutter Solano

Sacramento Business Journal, 6/28/13

Kathy Robertson

Senior Staff Writer- Sacramento Business Journal

The National Labor Relations Board will hold a hearing Sept. 9 on complaints that Sutter Solano Medical Center violated federal law when it imposed higher health care costs on registered nurses and disciplined them in retaliation for their participation in a strike last year.

Joseph Frankl, the San Francisco-based regional director of the NLRB, consolidated a series of complaints Wednesday and set the hearing date.

Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo has been in contentious contract negotiations with the California Nurses Association for two years. The previous contract expired July 31, 2011. Unable to reach agreement, the hospital unilaterally imposed changes to its health care coverage in November to coincide with the regular open enrollment period. Nurses say they have to pay hundreds of dollars a month in higher health care costs as a result. They want the change rescinded and to be paid back for extra costs paid since it was imposed.

The other complaints relate to alleged action by the hospital related to a one-day strike on Christmas Eve. Nurses allege there were threatened with disciplinary action before the strike and retaliated afterward when hospital executives wrote up dozens of nurses who participated.

“Sutter has shown contempt for the law by its decision to impose unconscionable takeaway demands on its nurses and to punish nurses who stand up in protest,” CNA co-president Zenei Cortez said in a news release.

The health plan was lawfully implemented after almost 18 months of negotiations and 20 sessions, Sutter spokeswoman Nancy Turner said in a statement. It is competitive and offers a comprehensive health plan that is 100 percent paid by Sutter Health, she added.

“There continues to be no question in our minds that the union was deliberately attempting to disrupt our business of providing care to patients with a series of hit-and-run intermittent strikes. The Christmas Eve strike was the second holiday strike, the seventh strike since negotiations began and the third strike within 60 days,” Turner added.

“While we are disappointed the board did not dismiss this (complaint) outright, we understand the desire to hold a hearing and we look forward to sharing more facts and participating in that process. We are confident that once the NLRB reviews the facts, they will have no choice but to conclude the union was asking our nurses to participate in an unprotected, intermittent strike.”

Kathy Robertson covers health care, law and lobbying, labor, workplace issues and immigration for the Sacramento Business Journal.


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