Unions and mergers

I work as a RN in a local community hospital.In Jan 2002 a merger was completed with another local hospital.
Now the CEO is telling us that we are part of their exisiting Union.Despite protest from the nursing staff,they say because of an "accretion"law in the 3yr old contract -we have essentially no choice.Can they legally due that?and what is a "lawful accretion"

Rosanne Callahan

1 answer  |  asked Jan 28, 2003 1:44 PM [EST]  |  applies to New York

Answers (1)

David M. Lira
Forced to Go Union

This is a labor law issue, and I'm an employment attorney. This is a fine distinction, but the truth is that my knowledge of labor law is very limited. My suggestion is that you contact the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). That is a federal agency governing union issues in private sector employment. (Public employees in New York State would look to the Public Employees Relations Board, PERB.) I am also assuming that you were not unionized before the merger.

Incidentally, I believe employees are better off with unions. Unionization nearly always takes you out of the employment at will doctrine, under which you can be fired for any reason or no reason at all. Union contracts almost always require the employer to have cause for terminating an employee. In addition, a union will prevent the employer from engaging in practices that I consider ethically questionable, such as having employees sign contracts with non-compete clauses. Non-compete clauses might actually prevent you from getting another nursing job, anywhere, although New York courts generally do not like enforcing these non-compete agreements.

My understanding is that a basic tenent of labor law is that workplaces cannot be forced to unionize, particularly by management. Once a workplace is unionized, individual employees might be required to pay union dues, but that happens only after a majority of the employees in that workplace have decided they want to unionize with a particular union.

I don't know what management means by "accretion." That might be a term used in labor law. Perhaps the contract that the employer has with the union at the other hospital requires the employer to recognize the union as the collective bargaining agent for any new facilties acquired by the employer, including your hospital. Even assuming that is what the contract says, you are not necessarily stuck.

I would think that either a certification or decertification election would need to be held at the non-unionized hospital. I don't know what the proper procedure would be, but the NLRB can help you with that. The purpose of any election would be to determine whether the nurses want the union.

Also note that, if nurses as a group at your hospital object to this union, you are better off acting together, rather than alone, because, oddly enough, when even non-unionized employees act together, they have certain rights similar to those enjoyed by union employees which protect them from retaliation for their collective action. If the union or employer retaliates against any group of non-unionized nurses for their opposition to the union, you can file a complaint of retaliation (unfair labor practice) with the NLRB.

posted by David M. Lira  |  Jan 29, 2003 09:08 AM [EST]

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