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Nurses Told They Alone Can’t Form Bargaining Unit

April 21, 1986

BALTIMORE (AP) _ A precedent-setting opinion by the National Labor Relations Board that registered nurses alone cannot form a bargaining unit could cripple efforts to unionize hospitals, a union official says.

The NLRB ruled last week in a case involving a suburban Baltimore hospital that bargaining units must include all professional employees at a hospital, from pharmacists to social workers.

The NLRB said the interests of registered nurses were not sufficiently distinct from those of other hospital professionals to warrant a separate bargaining unit.

The five-member federal panel threw out a 1985 union vote among registered nurses at North Arundel Hospital and ordered a new election be held within 30 days of its April 16 ruling. The outcome of last year’s election is not known because the ballots were impounded.

The decision came in an appeal of an earlier ruling by NLRB regional director Louis D’Amico, who had sided with the union. The issue of whether nurses could organize was raised in 1984 by the hospital during the union’s organizing efforts.

The opinion will hamper hospital organizing efforts throughout the country, said Larry Grosser, bargaining representative for the Maryland Nurses Association.

″The National Board sat on this for two years. Now they want us to get an election in 30 days,″ Grosser said. ″People have come and gone. Things have changed there. We spent a year there just organizing.″

He added that he had not seen the opinion and was uncertain whether he could or would appeal it.

Grosser predicted the nurses association, which has successfully organized registered nurses at Francis Scott Key, Provident and Lutheran hospitals in Baltimore, could not win an election at North Arundel.

″These hospitals don’t want nurses organized,″ he said. ″They know these people (other professionals) are not going to vote for a union.″

Grosser said registered nurses at North Arundel accounted for 282 of its 330 professional employees.

Requiring a nurses union to include all the professionals ″dilutes the ability to win an election,″ he said. ″Then, after the election, it dilutes the ability to maintain solidarity among the people because of the diffuse interest of the employees.″

But hospital attorney Earle K. Shawe, who filed the appeal of D’Amico’s ruling, hailed the ruling as a victory for hospitals.

″It spells the end of an era where unions such as the Maryland Nurses Association are permitted to limit their organization’s efforts to registered nurses only,″ he said.

Limiting the bargaining unit to registered nurses went against a 1974 congressional mandate against a proliferation of bargaining units in the health care industry, Shawe argued in his appeal.

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