St. Joe's labor action called illegal by NLRB
The Arizona Republic
May. 14, 2004 12:00 AM
St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center has been charged with illegally firing a veteran nurse for her efforts to unionize about 1,000 nurses at the Phoenix health care facility.
The regional director of the National Labor Relations Board concluded Tuesday that Bev Davis may have been fired in retaliation for her union activities and for initiating an unfair labor practices charge against the hospital.
An administrative law judge will make a final determination after a trial.
Gordon Jorgensen, the National Labor Relations Board's assistant regional director in Phoenix, said the hospital could settle the case by reinstating Davis with back pay.
Otherwise, St. Joseph's and its parent, Catholic Healthcare West, will have to go to trial and could be found guilty of violating the National Labor Relations Act.
"You can't discharge or take action against an employee for wanting a union," Jorgensen said.
St. Joseph's attorney, Mary Bruno, disputes the agency's charge. Bruno said the woman was fired for striking another employee and not for her union organizing.
But the labor board also is investigating a second claim that the hospital spied on and illegally interrogated nurses thought to be sympathetic to the California Nurses Association. The association represents 56,000 nurses in California and has been organizing at St. Joseph's since 2001.
Bruno said the hospital denies that allegation as well.
In 1998, St Joseph's reportedly agreed to pay $46,000 in back pay to three nurses who were believed to have been fired for helping the International Brotherhood of Teamsters organize. The Teamsters eventually dropped its bid to represent the hospital's nurses.
Alan Hanson, a California Nurses Association organizer in Phoenix, called the labor board determination a "vindication of nurses' rights to organize."
St. Joseph's nurses rejected a union bid by the association in a 2001 election.
But because the union lost by a small margin, it has continued to organize at the hospital. The union plans to eventually call for another election, but wants to be sure of its support before it sets a date.
Hanson said the California Nurses Association is hoping a successful vote at St. Joseph's could give it a toehold in Arizona.
He estimates that there are 30,000 to 40,000 nurses in the state who would be eligible for union membership.