A federal hearing officer has found Alta Vista Regional Hospital’s objections to a union election during the summer to be without merit.
The National Labor Relations Board’s officer, Daniel Nelson, is recommending the certification of District 1199 of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, a branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
“We knew this was going to happen from the beginning,” said Henry Santana, a union organizer. “The objections were a ploy to delay things.”
Nancy Martinez, a spokeswoman with the National Labor Relations Board, said this morning that the hospital has 14 days to appeal the hearing officer’s decision to the national board in Washington. She said it’s hard to say when the board could address such an appeal.
“If an appeal is filed, we have no timeframe,” she said.
The hospital indicated this morning that it would file an appeal.
“We take exception with the hearing officer’s report and still strongly believe that the NLRB election held earlier this year was not conducted properly. The hospital will continue to pursue its rights according to the National Labor Relations Act, and we welcome a fresh review of our concerns by the NLRB,” said Alta Vista spokesman Mathew Martinez. “We’re committed to building on the momentum we’ve gained in the recent months.”
Santana said the hospital and the union should start negotiations in good faith soon. He suggested the hospital’s recent change in administration may lead to a new atmosphere.
A couple of weeks ago, Alta Vista’s chief executive officer, Brian Gibbons, suddenly resigned, and the hospital’s parent company, Brentwood, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems, appointed Rich Robinson to serve as Alta Vista’s interim CEO.
“With this new administration, we hope they are a little more pro-worker and pro-community and that they will sit down in good faith. We will sit down in good faith for the benefit of the hospital and the community,” Santana said.
In a June election, nearly two-thirds of hospital employees voted to be represented by District 1199. But the hospital objected to some of the election procedures, and a hearing was held in September for the objections. Alta Vista brought in a New York team of lawyers to face off with the union’s lone attorney.
The hospital’s objections included the charge that the election started one minute late and that there was a “supervisory taint” on the process in favor of the union. The NLRB’s election officer testified the election started on time, and the hospital didn’t pursue the supervisory-taint allegation.
The hospital also objected because some employees apparently didn’t understand the English-language ballots. But Alta Vista officials conceded they didn’t express such concerns before the election.
The hearing included a moment of high drama when Alta Vista’s lead attorney, Don Carmody, persisted in arguing that the hearing officer, Nelson, was directed to hear all of the objections.
Nelson raised his voice, telling Carmody, “You’re not going to tell me how to run this hearing.”
Nelson sided with the union’s attorney, Shane Youtz, who contended that the NLRB had already made decisions on a number of the objections before the election.