TRAVERSE CITY — Notices to Munson Medical Center employees reaffirming their union rights were posted last week as part of a settlement agreement with the National Labor Relations Board.
The Michigan Nurses Association in July filed unfair labor practice charges against MMC after Heather Ruck, an operating room nurse, was threatened with discipline for talking about the potential impact of nurses’ increasing workloads, according to a press release from the MNA. The NLRB found merit and pursued the charges, the release states.
MMC nurses unionized with the MNA in August 2017. A contract was approved by union members at the end of March, following a two-day vote and 15 months of negotiations.
Hospital administrators deny any wrongdoing, said Rachel Roe, vice president of legal affairs and general counsel of Munson Healthcare.
“We decided that it was in the best interest of Munson Medical Center and our employees to resolve the matter and bring closure to the case,” Roe said. “If we continued to contest the allegations, it would have required a hearing before a federal judge. That was not a good use of time or resources.”
A copy of the settlement agreement obtained by the Record-Eagle includes a “non-admissions clause,” stating MMC doesn’t admit to any violations by entering the agreement.
“(The settlement) reaffirms our rights to speak about our working conditions and advocate for patient safety,” said Carolyn Moss, a registered nurse and president of Traverse City Michigan Nurses Association, the local MNA affiliate.
“We remain committed to working in collaboration with administration to advance patient care, but when things like this arise, we are going to use our collective voice and fight back,” Moss said.
Administrators were comfortable with the settlement — which doesn’t involve any monetary penalty or fine against Munson — because the language in the posted notice is consistent with MMC’s policies, Roe said.
The notice outlines employees right to unionize and states Munson will not “interfere with, restrain, or coerce” employees in their exercise of those rights or restrict union members rights to discuss terms and conditions of employment in non-patient care areas.
Along with being posted on MMC’s employee bulletin board, the notice was placed on MMC’s intranet and emailed to all nurses in the union’s bargaining unit, per the settlement, Roe said. The notice was signed and dated Nov. 22 and were posted Nov. 25, she said.
Moss said she hopes the settlement will be enough to get the nurses and hospital administration on the same page, but it remains to be seen.
An MNA spokesperson said the charges initially filed with the NLRB included additional claims that MMC, in retaliation for union activity, disciplined a nurse other than Ruck; refused to hire and rescinded a job offer to a nurse for union activity and for providing testimony on a prior unfair labor practice charge; and made scheduling changes and threatened additional scheduling changes.
Those claims were withdrawn by MNA, the spokesperson said.