The National Labor Relations Board has issued notice that it has found merit to three charges filed against Berkshire Medical Center, in Pittsfield, for violations of the National Labor Relations Act. The findings were brought to our attention in the form of a press release from the Massachusetts Nurses Association. The National Labor Relations Board has found that the hospital unlawfully threatened to interfere with nurses’ benefits prior to their voting for a one-day strike last year; failed to provide information about the hospital’s contract with replacement nurses; and for nearly a year failed to provide information on its health insurance program. That was a necessary step for bargaining with the nurses.

In addition, the board said on Friday that it is still investigating an unfair labor practice charge filed by the Massachusetts Nurses Association alleging the hospital’s four-day lockout of nurses following their strike last October was unlawful. The NLRB attorney assigned to that charge wrote on Friday that one of findings issued is, in his words, interrelated to a finding with respect to that case as well. According to Alex Neary, RN and Co-Chair of the BMC RN Bargaining Committee, the union has been trying to negotiate a fair contract that ensures high-quality patient care since October 2016…

 These National Labor Relations Board findings show that while we have been negotiating in good faith, the hospital has been withholding information they are legally required to provide and has tried to intimidate nurses from standing up for their rights in ways that the government has agreed were against the law.

 

One of the NLRB’s findings of violation of the National Labor Relations Act concerns a letter that BMC Vice President of Human Resources Arthur Milano sent to nurses on July 13, 2017. The MNA filed an unfair labor practice charge last year stating that the hospital violated nurses’ protected rights to vote to authorize a strike and hold a strike by, among other statements…

The NLRB concluded that the letter did violate the National Labor Relations Act, “including by stating that ‘contributions for health insurance benefits for all nurses who are on strike will cease’ and that coverage would continue only if the employee elected to personally pay the entire cost of the premium through a COBRA arrangement.

The NLRB also found that BMC violated the law by “delaying and refusing to respond to” MNA requests for correspondence, contracts and documents between BMC and the staffing agency it used to replace BMC nurses during their one-day strike and the hospital’s four-day lockout.

The third finding of violation of the National Labor relations Act was related to the MNA’s request for health insurance data. The NLRB said BMC violated federal law “by failing to timely respond to the Union’s June 19, 2017 information request related for health insurance benefit related information.” BMC is proposing to double the percentage of the health insurance premium contributions nurses would have to make for individual plans.

A hospital spokesman told the Berkshire Eagle that BMC arranged to continue its contributions during the strike and that it told nurses there would be no interruption. The cases will be assessed by an administrative court judge.

The National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency vested with the power to safeguard employees' rights to organize and to determine whether to have unions as their bargaining representative, according to its website. The agency also acts to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions.