The National Labor Relations Board announced on December 22, 2010 its intention to consider effectively applying pre-fixed, specific units for union organizing and bargaining in long term care facilities. In 1989, the NLRB promulgated a rule mandating 8 specific units for the acute-healthcare industry to make union organizing more efficient by avoiding long legal delays by employers contesting the union's desired unit or group of employees to represent for contract bargaining. Multiple bargaining units typically result in increased costs and increased risk of significant labor disruption. The NLRB's action has the potential to increase employer costs as well as healthcare costs. NLRB intends to receive comments through briefing addressing specific questions as posed in the announcement.
National Labor Relations Board—Appropriate units for nursing homes
On December 22, 2010, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued an invitation for interested parties to file briefs regarding the issue of the appropriate composition for bargaining units in long-term nursing care facilities. The pending case, Specialty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center of Mobile and United Steelworkers, District, 15-RC-8773, concerns a union’s effort to organize a unit of certified nursing assistants. The employer, however, contends that the unit should consist of all nonprofessional service and maintenance employees.
From a practical viewpoint, a union can organize a smaller group of employees more easily, quickly, and cost-efficiently than a larger, more diverse group. From an employer’s perspective, the prospect of separate, multiple units means potential conflicts among bargaining units, increased costs for bargaining and administering multiple contracts, significant restrictions on operating flexibilities, and the risk of significantly increased labor disputes and strikes. Related increased costs will inevitably be passed on to the customer/patient/nursing home resident.
In 1989, the NLRB, in its only rulemaking to date, approved eight specific and separate units for acute care facilities. The NLRB’s motivation, in part, was to eliminate constant and protracted unit hearings in each election case. By defining specific and pre-approved units, organizing is streamlined, legal proceedings and delay are avoided, and the risk of employees losing interest in an ongoing union campaign drawn out by legal wrangling is avoided. On the other hand, rigidly defining specific units prevents employers from taking advantage of their company-specific and competitive operating strategies/expertise and redesign of work groups and work execution procedures as technologies change and health-care advances occur.
Briefs must be filed on or before February 22, 2011.
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