Victory for unions as NLRB reaffirms right to engage in union activity
Minneapolis, MN – Labor won a victory, Sept. 4 when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a ruling that upheld the rights of workers to engage in union activities.
The origin of the case goes back to June, 2014, when several hundred workers at North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale, a first-tier suburb of Minneapolis, picketed in a park and on public property near the hospital. The workers were members of the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) and SEIU Healthcare MN. The workers joined together in a show of solidarity to fight for safe staffing levels at North Memorial, where cuts in staffing levels consistently put both the workers’ and patients’ safety at risk.
North Memorial management has had a long history of engaging in anti-union behaviors.
After the pickets brought public attention to the staffing and safety issues, North Memorial stepped up its attacks and began to engage in systematic retaliation against union members who led the pickets and on the members’ ability to communicate with each other and with their union staff.
North Memorial management blocked union members’ access to bulletin boards in an attempt to shut down communications. They spied on union members’ conversations and they threatened to spy on and retaliate against those who engaged in union activities. They blocked entrance to the hospital to members and staff who wore union insignias or t-shirts. North Memorial also blocked members’ and staff’s legally protected access to public areas. Then, to show just how far they were willing to go, North Memorial retaliated by firing SEIU Healthcare MN member Melvin Anderson, who actively engaged in and led turnout for the pickets.
SEIU and MNA filed charges against North Memorial for their outrageous illegal behaviors. In October of 2014 the NLRB found that the charges had merit and announced that a trial would be held starting in January of 2015. In that trial more and more chilling evidence came to light demonstrating the clear retaliation by North Memorial.
On Sept. 4, the NLRB issued their final ruling. Melvin Anderson was completely exonerated of any and all discipline related to these charges and was ordered reinstated with back pay plus interest. North Memorial was found to have violated the law on many counts. In addition to fully rescinding the disciplines from Anderson’s record, reinstating him, and making him financially whole, North Memorial was ordered to post a statement by the time clocks stating that they did indeed break the laws, letting each employee know that they have the right to engage in concerted union activities, and that management will not retaliate in the future.
This is just one case. Management here at North Memorial made some serious errors and got caught. Because of this, workers were able to win a victory this time. In truth these same types of threats and retaliation are used routinely by employers when workers try to organize and make improvements, because management knows that as a union the workers have real power.
Members at North Memorial will continue to fight for issues they believe in, like safe staffing, and this victory only affirms that what they are doing is right. This fighting and winning attitude can be clearly seen in statements by Melvin Anderson. He states, “Despite the challenges that North Memorial’s retaliation has caused for me, I don’t regret for one second that I spoke up for safe staffing levels and patient safety.”
Anderson continued, “I hope this ruling makes North Memorial understand that they can’t intimidate employees and that it is time to finally address their staffing levels.”