Pittsburgh Hospital Interfered With Union Drive, Labor Board Says

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By Chris Opfer

A Pittsburgh hospital embroiled in labor disputes violated federal law by banning off-duty workers from discussing unionization and distributing organizing materials in the hospital cafeteria, the National Labor Relations Board ruled Aug. 6.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and related hospitals went too far by prohibiting workers from talking about unionization with labor representatives and their co-workers in non-patient-care areas of their facilities, the board said in a 3-0 decision. But medical care employers have the right to ban union solicitation in areas where patients are being treated, the board said. UPMC didn’t show the broader rule was necessary to avoid work disruptions or patient disturbance.

UPMC has been locked in a number of disputes with the Service Employees International Union in recent years. That includes a spat over UPMC’s plan to expand its Mercy campus in Pittsburgh and a failed effort to decertify the union followed by tense contract negotiations at the hospital’s McKeesport, Pa., facility.

The board in a 2015 decision said the hospital wrongly barred workers from using UPMC’s email system to discuss union organizing outside of work hours.

Chairman John Ring (R), joined with Members Mark Gaston Pearce (D) and William Emanuel (R) in the new decision. The board didn’t weigh in on a related dispute over whether UPMC is a “single employer” with the other hospitals under federal labor law.

The case is UPMC, N.L.R.B., 366 N.L.R.B. No. 142, 8/6/18.

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