St. Johns Hospital on Trial

By Peggy Clifford
Santa Monica Dispatch
March 8, 2010

The federal agency that oversees labor law has ordered St. Johns Health Center,  Santa Monica, to stand trial on charges that it has violated the rights of its registered nurses.

The National Labor Relations Board is prosecuting the hospital for unlawful harassment of nurse leaders, engaging in illicit spying on RNs, and interrogating nurses about union activity, among other violations.

The charges against St. Johns were brought by the California Nurses Association on behalf of St. Johns Health Center RNs who have been organizing to win collective bargaining rights in the hopes of improving long-term concerns about patient safety and nurse retention.

The NLRB, regiin 42, will hear the   charges today in West L.A., According to the California Nurses  Association, “In spite of CEO Lou Lazatin’s oft repeated promise to obey the federal labor laws, the hospital continued to violate it even after charges had already been filed.

“Ms. Lazatin’s promises to obey the law were made as an excuse for flatly rejecting the nurses’ repeated requests to collaborate on a set of fair rules, based on guidelines laid out by the Catholic Church that do more than federal law to guarantee a level playing field.

“‘Saint John’s administration should open its heart to respecting RNs rights and embrace the fair union election principles of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,’ said Lori Hammond, an RN who works in the labor delivery unit of the hospital. ‘This has gone on too long and has taken too high a price on our nurses, our patients and our community. We urge our hospital to respect their nurses and stop the attacks on our attempt to gain collective bargaining rights so we can advocate for our patients.’”

Violations include spying on the union activity of RNs, interrogating RNs about their union support, expelling off-duty pro-union RNs from the hospital, threatening to call police if off-duty RNs refused to leave, creating a policy to prevent off-duty RNs from campaigning for CNA representation, prohibiting wearing ribbons that say, “Saint John’s RNs for Safe Patient Care.”

St. John’s is a part of the Catholic chain, Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth.