President’s Message – March 2013
UNAC/UHCP continues to grow. Already this year, 700 Physical, Occupational and Recreational Therapists and 100 Staff Educators at Kaiser signed cards to join UNAC/UHCP. More than 300 RNs at Corona Regional Medical Center voted to join. Still, workers often have to face real obstacles to forming a union. Universal Health Services (UHS) owns Corona and two other hospitals where RNs are trying to join UNAC/UHCP, Rancho Springs and Inland Valley. UHS has a spent a fortune on anti-union consultants, instead of putting that money into patient care. At Corona, management pulled RNs away from patients to watch anti-union DVDs. And at all three hospitals, pro-union RNs have faced discrimination, surveillance, interrogation and threats.
This points to the importance for us of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency that's supposed to conduct fair union elections, remedy unfair labor practices, and guard workers' rights to organize and bargain collectively. The NLRB has been favorable to workers recently, including UNAC/UHCP members, due in large part to three members appointed by President Obama.
However, this January a federal court ruled that Obama's appointments to the Board were unconstitutional. Because the Republican Senate had refused to even vote on his nominees, Obama made so-called “recess appointments” in January 2012, when the Senate was effectively not meeting, though every few days they gaveled into session for a few minutes. But a Pepsi bottling company called Noel Canning got upset when Obama's Board ruled in favor of its workers. The company petitioned the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. This January 25, the Circuit Court decided in Noel Canning v. NLRB that Obama's recess appointments were invalid. On that basis, the Court overturned the Board's decision against Noel Canning. Noel Canning v. NLRB could be disastrous for union members, if other steps the Board has taken to support workers' rights, including our own members, are affected. The Circuit Court's decision will likely be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The NLRB continues to process cases and issue decisions. And President Obama has now formally nominated two of the members whose appointments were disputed—which will no doubt lead to a new battle with the Senate. This reminds us why it's important that we stay on top of our elected officials, holding them accountable for supporting workers' rights.
Ken Deitz, RN