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In Rare NLRB Order Fallbrook Hospital Must Pay Costs of Refusing to Bargain with its Nurses

National Nurses United Press Release, 4/16/14

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Contempt For Law By Giant For-Profit Chain CHS Continues

The latest in a two-year series of rulings against Fallbrook Hospital, owned and operated by the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chain, Community Health Systems, was issued on Monday by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) upholding a judge’s decision that the hospital repeatedly failed to bargain in good faith with California Nurses Association, representing its RNs who voted for CNA in 2012.  

In the latest development, and as expected based on a two-year history of disrespect for the legal process and the democratic right of nurses, Fallbrook petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals today for review of the decision.  Fallbrook Hospital is owned by Franklin, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems, that owns, leases or operates 206 medical facilities in 29 states.

The hospital chain’s disregard of the law has been so egregious that the NLRB has taken the unusual step of ordering Fallbrook to pay CNA for the costs of bargaining for a six-month period. The remedy, based on Frontier Hotel and Casino has been ordered only eight times in hundreds of NLRB cases since 1995.
 
“We find that the Respondent’s misconduct infected the core of the bargaining process to such an extent that its effects can not be eliminated by the mere application of our traditional remedy of an affirmative bargaining order. In these circumstances, requiring the Respondent to reimburse the union’s negotiation expenses is also warranted both to make the Union whole for the resources that were wasted because of the Respondent’s unlawful conduct and to restore the economic strength that is necessary to ensure a return to the status quo ante at the bargaining table.”
—NLRB Decision and Order, 4/14/14, Cases 21-CA-090211 and 21-CA 096065
 
The ruling includes a one-year extension of CNA’s certification as the nurses' bargaining agent due to the bad faith bargaining of the hospital. 

“We’re pleased that the federal government has recognized that CHS bargained in bad faith, and we renew our call for management to move quickly to build a more respectful relationship with the bedside registered nurses who provide care,” said Rosenda McDowell, an RN who works in the medical surgical unit of the hospital.

A long-standing pattern of disregard for the law and its nurses

CHS’s refusal to address nurses’ widespread concerns about patient safety was the driving force that galvanized RNs from the chain’s hospitals in Ohio, West Virginia, and California to organize and win representation.
 
In 2012, CNA and its affiliate National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC) were certified as the exclusive collective bargaining representative for RNs at five hospitals affiliated with CHS—Barstow Community Hospital in California, Fallbrook Hospital in California, Bluefield Regional Medical Center in West Virginia, Greenbrier Valley Medical Center in West Virginia, and Affinity Medical Center in Ohio.
 
At all five locations, the hospitals have engaged in rampant and serious unfair labor practices, including terminating RN leaders in a wide-scale attempt to weaken support for the union and forestall reaching initial collective bargaining agreements. CHS has been slapped with three federal injunctions for illegally refusing to bargain with RNs.

Just weeks after speaking out at a national press conference about rampant patient safety problems at the nation’s largest hospital chain, two nurse leaders at CHS hospitals in Fallbrook and Watsonville, CA were unjustly terminated.

Veronica Poss publically admonished CHS in a television interview about CHS’s plan to close the cardiac rehabilitation unit, a vital service to the senior residents of the area. The following month she joined a CNA/NNOC sponsored press conference in Naples, FL outside a shareholders meeting of another big for-profit chain, Health Management Associates, where a vote was being taken to accept a buyout by CHS. 

The firings occurred less than a week after a U.S. District Court Judge delivered a sweeping cease and desist injunction against a CHS hospital in Ohio ordering it to cease and desist its lawless behavior of repeated illegal discipline and harassment of its RNs, and reinstate an illegally fired Ohio RN.

Highlights of the latest order

The National Labor Relations Board orders that the Fallbrook Hospital shall;
1. Cease and desist from

  • Failing and refusing to bargain in good faith with the Union, California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC).​
  • Refusing to bargain collectively with the Union by failing and refusing to submit any proposals or counter-proposals until the union submits all of its proposals and by conditioning bargaining on the nurses’ abandoning the use of ADO* forms.

*Unit employees use CNA’s Assignment Despite Objection form to document any circumstances they believed were unsafe for patients, or that would put a nurse’s license in jeopardy.

  • Refusing to bargain collectively with the Union by failing and refusing to bargain over the terms and conditions of employment of its unit employees, including discharges and their effects.
  • Refusing to bargain collectively with the Union by failing and refusing to furnish it with requested information that is relevant and necessary to the Union’s performance of its functions as the collective-bargaining representative of the Respondent’s unit employees.

 
2. Take the following affirmative action necessary to effectuate the policies of the Act:

  • Bargain with the Union as the exclusive collective-bargaining representative of the employees in the following appropriate unit concerning terms and conditions of employment and, if an understanding is reached, embody the understanding in a signed agreement:
  • Provide to CNA the information requested in August 2012
  • Reimburse the Union for the expenses it incurred for the collective-bargaining negotiations held from July 3, 2012 through January 8, 2013, as set forth in the Amended Remedy.
  • Bargain with the Union as the exclusive collective-bargaining representative of the employees in the unit described above concerning terms and conditions of employment, including the discharges of Libby Sandwell and Martha Robinson and the effects of each discharge

Post the Notice to Employees in the Fallbrook facility for 60 consecutive days in conspicuous places, including all places where notices to employees are customarily placed.

 

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