Labor Roundup: NLRB Rules on Flu Prevention For Nurses


The heat of July may not seem like the most appropriate time for a blog post about flu vaccination, but a recent National Labor Relations Board decision brought the issue of mandatory vaccinations for health care workers back to the fore of the labor world. As we reported last week in Daily Labor Report, the board recently ruled that a hospital did not violate the law when it implemented a flu-prevention program without bargaining with a nurses' union.

Unions representing health care workers, including nurses, typically have been resistant to mandatory flu vaccinations for workers. Back in January, a reportby a Department of Health and Human Services workgroup recommending mandatory flu vaccines was roundly criticized not only by nurses' unions, but by the Labor Department's Occupational Safety & Health administration. An OSHA official at the time said that while OSHA would support a mandatory offering of vaccines by employers and mandatory education of workers, the agency "believes there is insufficient evidence for the federal government to promote mandatory influenza vaccination programs that may result in employee termination."

Fast-forward to late June, when the NLRB ruled that Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle could legally implement a flu prevention policy requiring any nurse who did not get immunized to wear a face mask or take an antiviral medication, and could so do without bargaining with the Washington State Nurses Association, which represents some 600 nurses at the hospital.

The board adopted the recommended decision of an administrative law judge. This is only the latest development in a long string of wrangling over whether or not hospitals may require employees to get flu shots. The debate is likely to continue, with the latest ruling representing just one more milestone.

In other recent labor news: 

  • The Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers requested the services of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in their contract talks with Verizon, but the company declined to agree to mediation.
  • Pilots at United Airlines and Continental Airlines voted to authorize a strike.
  • Members of the United Steelworkers set goals for upcoming collective bargaining with employers in the paper industry.