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New judge orders BCH reps to bargain with nurses' union
Wage proposal, ADO forms contributors to stalled negotiations
WASHINGTON, D.C. • An administrative law judge ruled this week that Barstow Community Hospital and its parent company, Community Health Systems, must negotiate in good faith with the union its registered nurses adopted last year.
A similar ruling was handed down by a U.S. district judge last month.
“Having found (BCH/CHS) engaged in certain unfair labor practices, I shall recommend that it be ordered to cease and desist therefrom,” Judge Jay R. Pollack ruled Monday, on behalf of the National Labor Relations Board. “Accordingly, I shall order Respondent to resume collective bargaining with the Union.”
Attempts on Tuesday to reach BCH and CHS were unsuccessful.
Representatives from the union and BCH have met more than a dozen times since RNs at the local hospital certified the California Nurses Association last June to be its exclusive representative for the purposes of collective bargaining.
The 75 represented RNs remain without a contract.
Pollack’s ruling Monday addressed the issues that appear to be at the crux of thus far failed negotiations, ordering BCH representatives to retreat from allowing those to be used as reasons for refusing to bargain.
At the second-ever bargaining session on July 26, 2012, the union presented its proposed contract with all its proposals except wages, according to the court order.
CHS attorney Don T. Carmody refused to bargain until he received the union’s full contract proposal — essentially their missing wage proposal, the document shows.
It wasn’t until three months and six meetings later when the union presented their wage proposal that negotiations actually began.
Pollack ruled Monday that Carmody’s refusal had been a violation of labor law.
Also, at the initial meeting between the two sides on July 16, 2012, Carmody stated that the union needed to stop using Assignment Despite Objection forms, the court order shows.
ADO forms were given to RNs to fill out to object to any unsafe or potentially unsafe patient care and were to be used in conjunction with BCH’s internal procedure, according to union negotiator Stephen Mathews.
At a bargaining session on Dec. 28, 2012, Carmody stated that the parties were at impasse over the use of ADO forms and therefore at impasse over every existing issue, the court order shows.
The two sides met Jan. 11 with a federal mediator, where the issue of an impasse was brought up again, according to the document.
Mathews denied any impasse, stating the union was willing to bargain over the use of ADO forms. Pollack agreed Monday there was no impasse.
“Respondent violated (labor law) by declaring impasse and refusing to bargain unless the Union ceased using ADO forms,” his ruling reads. “While respondent could lawfully refuse to accept the ADO forms, it could not condition bargaining on the union’s abandonment of the ADO forms.”
On Tuesday, CNA spokesman Charles Idelson hoped the judge’s ruling would pressure BCH representatives to negotiate in “good faith.”
“What this does, it further verifies the violation committed by the hospital and its corporate employer,” Idelson said. “It should put more pressure on them.”
He planted blame on CHS for talks having gone more than a year without a contract resolution.
“We believe this is a coordinated directive from the corporate suites in Tennessee (where CHS is headquartered),” he said.
Within the next two weeks, BCH must post at its facilities copies of an appendix that reads in part, “The National Labor Relations Board has found that we violated Federal labor law and has ordered us to post and obey this Notice.”
The two sides last met Sept. 4, according to CNA spokeswoman Liz Jacobs. The latest bargaining session had not been scheduled as of Tuesday, she said.
Shea Johnson may be reached at (760) 256-4126 or at SJohnson@DesertDispatch.com.