6/3/08

Nurses decertify CNA

Four-year union experiment over

Citing stronger bargaining power without union representation, registered nurses at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas have voted to end a four-year relationship with the California Nurses Association. Jeanne Leonard, a registered nurse in the hospital's rehabilitation unit and a 15-year employee, says she voted to decertify the union because she no longer saw it as necessary. "I think the union didn't have that much to offer us," she said. Given the shortage of nurses today, Leonard said: "I don't need a union to speak for me. I can bargain on my own."

A secret ballot vote, which took place April 23 and 24, was held in response to a petition signed by the hospital's nurses in December stating that they no longer wanted union representation. Of the 312 nurses eligible to vote, 286 nurses voted, with 123 in support of the union's representation and 163 against it, according to hospital spokeswoman Julie Lee.

Accusations Are Flying

Chuck Idelson, a representative for the Oakland-based association, says the union planned to petition the National Labor Relations Board for what he called illegal behavior in the days leading up to the election.

"There was a constant amount of threats and intimidation and harassment of the RNs by the employer and other acts that we believe are a violation of federal labor law that clearly infringed on the ability of the RNs to make a decision in an environment free of coercion," he said.

Idelson, whose association represents about 65,000 registered nurses in the state, says the hospital administration pressured nurses to disassociate with the union, threatening some with job loss.

Lee denied the accusations, saying that the 140-bed hospital was "very cognizant" of the strong rules and regulations that oversee how the organization can act and what it can say during an election.

The move to decertify the union followed a series of contract negotiations regarding compensation, retirement benefits and other issues leading back to 2004.

Nurses' Strikes

Negotiations between the union and the hospital reached an impasse at various times, which led to two nurses' strikes about disagreements regarding pay systems, union membership requirements and nurse involvement in a patient care committee.

A previous attempt to decertify the union in 2005 failed to secure enough votes.

A new two-year collective bargaining agreement was ratified March 27, giving nurses a wage increase, but rejecting some of the union's previous requests, such as the elimination of merit-based pay and the requirement that all nurses join the union.

The union says it successfully bargained to add designated employees to assist with the lifting and handling of patients, and ensured that new technologies would not replace professional clinical judgment made by registered nurses.

Lee says the hospital, which is one of five operated by San Diego- based Scripps Health, had already designated staff for those purposes and involved nurses on committees designated to deal with technological advances.

The health care union represents nurses in the Palomar Pomerado Health system and Tri-City Medical Center, which serve North County.

Idelson says he doesn't think the most recent vote to decertify the union would have an effect on the other hospitals

(redorbit.com)

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