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Nurses Denounce Court Ruling on Federal Labor Board

National Nurses United Press Release, 1/25/13

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Bid to Return to Era of Open Season on U.S. Workers

The nation’s largest organization of nurses today condemned a conservative federal appeals court ruling overturning President Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, a step taken by the President only after the refusal of Senate Republicans to restore a quorum on the board to enable it to function. 

“It is appalling that the court would reward the giant corporations and Wall Street, and the politicians they control in Washington, who have worked for years to overturn even modest protections for working people in the U.S.,” said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the 185,000-member National Nurses United.

“What that means in healthcare is a clear assault on the ability of nurses to act collectively to improve safety standards and public protections for patients,” said DeMoro. “If nurses are unable to speak out for patients and act together to safeguard conditions, all patients are threatened in an era in which most hospital employers place their bottom line above patient safety.”

“When the board is not controlled by corporate-oriented appointees, as it has been most of the past four decades, the game plan of the anti-union crowd is to bar it from operating, either by refusing to confirm appointees, defunding or other destabilization tactics,” DeMoro noted.

Without a quorum, which will now be the case again as a result of today’s ruling, workers experience delays that can drag on for years if they object to unfair discipline, intimidation or harassment by employers, or attempt to form a union to represent them, DeMoro noted.

In 2007, for example, the California Nurses Association filed labor board challenges in response to retaliation by a rural Northern California hospital against RNs for legally protected union activity.  After initial board delays, an NLRB administrative law judge ruled in 2009 that the hospital had acted illegally and ordered restitution for the nurses.

When the hospital employer appealed to Washington, the NLRB was unable to act for years because of the Senate action blocking Presidential appointments to the NLRB. Only after the recess appointments were made, was the NLRB able to act on the case, along with a long stack of other delayed decisions. 

A final decision on the 2007 charge was issued just days ago affirming the 2009 law judge ruling. Now that decision, too, is in jeopardy, further delaying justice for the nurses. “Once again justice delayed is justice denied,” said DeMoro.

“That, of course, is the real intent of this court challenge, the obstruction of the Senate in confirming Presidential appointees, and blatant attempts by the U.S. Chamber of Chamber and the politicians they control, to gut any semblance of federal protection for workers who need a collective voice to counter multi-million dollar employers who profit off denying workplace rights, consumer rights, and reducing worker living standards,” DeMoro said.

Labor law was enacted in the 1930s precisely to assure some balance in the workplace and fair treatment for workers. It helped sustain the growth of unions which led to dramatic improvements in living standards for all Americans in the 1950s and 1960s.

“Since then, the neo-liberal agenda has been to overturn any labor law rights for workers, which has contributed to the growing decline of union membership and the concurrent decline in wages and economic security for all U.S. workers, while more wealth is transferred to corporate board rooms and yacht owners,” DeMoro said.

“This decision, DeMoro said, “is a further reminder that the labor movement and all those who believe in workplace and democratic rights need to step up our efforts to challenge Wall Street, the Chamber and the puppets it controls. We need to get back in the streets, forcefully challenge those who would deny our rights, and unite a broad movement to press for participatory democracy and social change.”

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