Agency Trial Judge Won’t Punish Union Officials for Threatening Non-Striking PVHMC Nurses with Fines, Jail
Nurse’s civil rights attorneys will appeal to the National Labor Relations Board
Pomona, California (November 25, 2008) – Attorneys for a Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center nurse announced they will appeal an erroneous administrative law judge ruling dismissing a federal complaint against a local union. Union officials had threatened non-striking nurses with financial penalties and even arrest for refusing to abandon their patients.
Federal labor prosecutors agreed with unfair labor practice charges brought by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys and found that Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 121RN officials had illegally coerced nurses in the exercise of their rights to refrain from union activity. The General Counsel of the NLRB formally brought the case before the federal labor law judge.
In May 2007, the collective bargaining agreement between the union and the hospital expired. SEIU officials later ordered a series of general strikes. Dozens of nurses resigned from formal union membership so they could continue treating their patients without facing retaliation by union officials. In response, union bosses menacingly disseminated information to nurses stating that, under a California “strikebreaker” law, they may be “subject to a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail” for refusing to join the strike and returning to work. SEIU officials further suggested to nurses that nonmembers would continue to owe compulsory union dues even though no contract containing a valid forced-dues clause was in effect.
Foundation attorneys helped Carole Jean Badertscher file the original unfair labor practice charges at the NLRB, and the General Counsel agreed that the Golden State’s “strikebreaker” law “coerced and intimidated employees from engaging in activities protected by the [National Labor Relations] Act,” which guarantees the right of nonmembers to work rather than strike. Moreover, the General Counsel agreed that the union bosses’ false insistence that nonmembers pay dues when no contract is in effect is also an unfair labor practice.
But Administrative Law Judge William G. Kocol dismissed the complaint, claiming that because none of the nurses could be legally classified as “professional strikebreakers,” the California law did not apply to them, and thus they should have ignored the threats. Also, according to the ALJ, union bosses did not violate the duty of fair representation because they “did not directly link continued dues payment with enforcement of a [forced-dues clause].”
“Unbelievably, the judge has effectively indicated that employees are expected to hire their own labor lawyers to help them read between the lines of union boss propaganda intended to coerce and intimidate them,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “The fact remains that union bosses sought to mislead and pressure nurses into turning their backs on patients and continue to pay dues against their will.”
Foundation attorneys will file an appeal with the NLRB in Washington, DC.