Vote to pick union for nurses delayed
Kaiser hospital allegedly interfered with the process
A vote that could give a California nurses union a substantial foothold in Hawaii has been postponed following a federal labor agency's allegations that Kaiser Foundation Hospital illegally interfered with the union's ability to campaign.
An election to oust the Hawaii Nurses Association and replace it with the National Nurses Organizing Committee/California Nurses Association had been scheduled for the week of Feb. 6.
But according to correspondence from the National Labor Relations Board's Honolulu office, the NLRB has postponed the vote indefinitely after finding merit to allegations that hospital management engaged in "unlawful restrictions on access/distribution" on three occasions.
The board also stated that certain hospital policies amounted to "overly-broad and restrictive loitering and no-solicitation/no-distribution policies."
The NLRB has not yet filed a complaint against Kaiser. However, NLRB correspondence states that it has found merit to charges filed by the California nurses union, and the NLRB plans to file a complaint as soon as today if the hospital refuses to settle, said Tom Cestare, officer in charge of the NLRB's Honolulu office.
The postponement means a delay in the so-called decertification election that could have removed the Hawaii Nurses Association as the collective bargaining agent of some 800 Kaiser RNs.
Kaiser's nurses make up nearly a quarter of the 4,000 nurses who are represented by the Hawaii Nurses Association, and losing those members would be a clear blow to the union.
In December, the Hawaii Nurses Association negotiated a new contract that gives the Kaiser nurses a 23 percent pay raise over three years, said Aggie Pigao Cadiz, the union's executive director.
The contract got the support of 91 percent of the nurses who voted in the election to ratify it, Pigao Cadiz said.
But some Kaiser nurses are still not happy with the situation.
Among other things, they want more control over patient-care decisions than the new contract gives them, said Yvonne Lindsay, a registered nurse at Kaiser who said she voted against the contract.
Driving the movement to oust the Hawaii Nurses Association is Michelle Paik, a Kaiser RN who filed the request for the election to decertify the Hawaii union.
The California Nurses Association represents 12,600 Kaiser nurses in California and is preparing to negotiate a new contract in June, said David Monkawa, Southern California-Hawaii organizing director for the California Nurses Association. And those kinds of numbers would give Kaiser's Hawaii nurses a powerful voice, Lindsay said.
The NLRB gave the California Nurses Association the chance to go forward with the election next month despite the hospital's practices. But that would have required the California and Hawaii nurses unions to sign waivers saying they would not come back later and ask the NLRB to set aside the election on grounds that Kaiser's actions made the election unfair.
But only the Hawaii nurses group signed the waiver.
Pigao Cadiz said she believed that was a sign that the California nurses do not have enough votes to oust the Hawaii group.
But Charles Idelson, a spokesman for the California Nurses Association, said that Kaiser management had created an atmosphere of "rampant intimidation and bias" that not only prevented the union from informing Kaiser's RNs but also made them fearful of the possible repercussions of voting for the California group.
"You cannot have an honest election under those conditions," he said.
Kaiser said it was the hospital's policy to honor the legal rights of its employees but said "there may be confusion or disagreements concerning how to do so in specific situations."
"Kaiser Permanente supports a fair and unbiased democratic process to allow our employees the right to choose their union representation," the hospital added. "We will work with the NLRB to make this happen."