Nurses union challenges recent vote at Memorial Medical Center

The Modesto Bee

The California Nurses Association filed a request Tuesday for the National Labor Relations Board to overturn the recent vote at Memorial Medical Center in Modesto that rejected joining the union.

The union claimed the vote was “fatally compromised” by harassment and other illegal actions against nurses during the election campaign, so the results should be thrown out.

The tally for the June 26-27 election at Memorial showed 57 percent of votes cast against union membership. About 92 percent of the hospital’s 885 registered nurses participated in the election.

Michele James, a nurse at Memorial, said the union was rejected by a 110-vote margin and the CNA should accept the outcome. “They lost and now they are not respecting the democratic process, which is what they had pushed for. They have wanted to rescue us from an employer we like to work for. They need to respect (the vote) and let it go,” James said.

The CNA said its complaint was filed with the NLRB regional office in Oakland. The union has seven days to provide the NLRB with evidence to support its objections. If the charges are upheld, the board could call for another election.

“Memorial made a fair, democratic election impossible due to a disgraceful campaign of threats, spying, chilling interrogation by managers, and pulling RNs away from their patients to pressure them to vote against having a collective voice for their patients and their colleagues,” said Deborah Burger, a nurse and co-president of the union.

In a statement, Memorial officials said the union’s allegations are baseless. “This is a typical union tactic that will unfortunately delay certification of the election results. We respect the rights of our nurses to share their viewpoints. We followed the law throughout the election campaign process.”

In a strongly worded press release, the CNA claimed the hospital ran a multimillion-dollar campaign against the organizing effort at Memorial with tactics including interrogation of nurses by managers and threats to change work schedules, cut support staff and eliminate nursing jobs if the union was successful. The union also charged that nurses were offered raises if they voted against membership.

The hospital countered: “We hope the NLRB dismisses the objections and certifies the election results soon so our nurses and the entire hospital can put the election behind us.”

Jeffrey Henze, a deputy regional attorney for the NLRB, said the board will review any evidence provided by the union to see if there’s cause for holding a hearing. The board would receive testimony from witnesses at the hearing. It could be more than two months before a decision is issued, Henze said.

The medical center, at Briggsmore Avenue and Coffee Road, is a major employer in Modesto, with more than 2,500 employees. None of the employees are represented by unions.