Beaumont Health System in Royal Oak is accused of illegal "policies which interfere with, restrain and coerce employees" who support organizing efforts by the Michigan Nurses Association.
A Detroit attorney for the union submitted a three-page unfair labor practices complaint this week to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regional office. It uses language as sharp as surgical tools, and so do nurses whose voices it shares in a statement.
"They are spying on nurses, interrogating nurses, and threatening us because we are standing up for our rights,” says Mary Beth Boeson, a nurse anesthetist from Birmingham who's quoted in the media release. Her duties changed five months ago "in a manner designed to isolate her contact with othger nurses" because she's a pro-union activist, the association's filing says.
Jennifer Elrod, an emergency center nurse from Sterling Heights, also speaks out:
"Hospital executives need to step back and let us make our own decision about union representation. The actions they are taking in response to our organizing campaign – changing the work assignments of pro-union nurses, enforcing discriminatory policies, barging into private Facebook groups – have nothing to do with patient care."
Speaking for the hospital network, chief nursing officer Susan Grant tells Michigan Radio: "We believe these allegations do not have merit and we are operating under National Labor Relations [Act] laws."
Grant says the hospital will work with the NLRB, and says: "We respect our employees' rights and our nurses' rights to unionize or not unionize. That is their decision and it's an important decision for them to make."
Grant says the hospital is aware of hundreds of nurses who are not interested in unionizing.
Some nurses say "they were discriminated against [by colleagues] for not wanting to form a union," the hospital executive tells Lauren Janes of the public radio group.
These are among alleged violations listed by the Michigan Nurses Association, which says management has "interfered with, restrained and coerced its registered nurses in their activities on behalf of MNA:"
- "Beaumont discriminated against nurses supporting MNA by denying them the opportunity to attend meetings [in May] with labor consultants, while permitting other nurses to attend such meetings."
- "Beaumont . . . interrogated nurses [April 19] about their activities on behalf of MNA."
- "Beaumont ejected a MNA representative from a public area" in March.
- "Beaumont, by its agent Anne Ronk [associate chief nursing officer], created the impression of surveillance by telling employees that their postings on a private Facebook page were not private and by interrogating employees about such postings."
- "Beaumont . . . threatened employees with loss of favorable working conditions if MNA was selected as their collective bargaining representative."
- "Beaumont . . . permitted nurses opposed to MNA to solicit opposition to MNA from other nurses during working time" in June.
- "Beaumont . . . announced a rule that prohibits nurses from talking about unions."
"We have strong evidence to show that hospital executives are interfering with our rights and violating federal law," psychiatric nurse Mike Weber says in the union handout.