March 6, 2021

N.L.R.B. Eases Unionizing at Nursing Homes

The National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday released a decision that would make it easier to unionize nursing home workers.

It is the latest in a flurry of moves favorable to unions that the board completed before the term of its chairwoman, Wilma B. Liebman, expired on Sunday. The board released two other pro-union decisions on Tuesday, both reversing decisions issued under President George W. Bush.

In the nursing home decision, the board ruled that the union, the United Steelworkers, could organize just the 53 certified nursing assistants at a nursing home in Mobile, Ala., as part of one bargaining unit, without including the home’s 33 other nonprofessional workers, including janitors, cooks and file clerks.

Groups representing businesses and nursing home operators attacked the decision, fearing it would make the homes more vulnerable to unionization drives.

“This ruling makes it easier for unions to gerrymander who is in a bargaining unit to help them be successful in organizing,” said Michael J. Eastman, executive director of labor law policy at the United States Chamber of Commerce.

In the Alabama case, known as Specialty Healthcare, the board reversed a 1991 ruling and stated that the potential bargaining unit for employees at nonacute health care facilities would be based on the same “community of interest” standard used at other workplaces. Under that standard, bargaining units would generally be based on whether employees had similar responsibilities, supervisors, skills, working conditions and pay scales.

In a 3-1 decision, the majority said the 1991 ruling was obsolete and inconsistent with the aims of the National Labor Relations Act. The majority consisted of three Democrats: Ms. Liebman, Craig Becker and Mark G. Pearce, the board’s new chairman.

The board’s sole Republican, Brian E. Hayes, said the decision “fundamentally changed the standard for determining” who should be in a bargaining unit. “The majority is making sweeping changes to established law through this adjudication,” he wrote. “This initiative puts our agency beyond the pale of reasoned adjudication.”

Mr. Hayes asserted that the new approach would encourage the unionization of units as small as possible, which he said conflicted with the labor act’s aims.

Responding to Mr. Hayes, the majority wrote, “Our decision adheres to well-established principles of bargaining unit determination reflected in the language of the act and decades of board and judicial precedent.”

Greg Crist, spokesman for the American Health Care Association, which represents thousands of nursing homes, criticized the ruling. “The board used this case to legislate from a political perch,” he said. “The board should be helping our workers continue to deliver quality health care, not disrupting them.”

Lynn Rhinehart, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s general counsel, applauded the three rulings issued on Tuesday. “These are mainstream decisions, consistent with the purpose of the National Labor Relations Act,” she said. “These are not radical. What was radical was the Bush board overturning decades of precedent to invent new rules.”

One of the two other decisions reversed a board ruling from 2007, when the Bush administration was in power. That ruling allowed workers opposed to a union to seek a decertification vote immediately after an employer granted recognition to a union after showing that a majority of employees had signed cards supporting a union. (Typically 30 percent of employees need to petition to hold such a vote.) The majority wrote that henceforth workers must wait “a reasonable period” — likely six months to a year — after a union gains recognition to hold a decertification vote.

The third ruling reversed a 2002 board decision, also during the Bush era, that created an immediate window for a decertification vote after there was a change of ownership at a unionized company. Under the new ruling, the union relationship would be protected for at least six months before a decertification vote could be held.

Article source:

Speak Your Mind