NLRB Finds Sutter Health Violated Federal Laws in 2004 Employee Lockout
Sutter Health violated federal labor laws in December 2004 when it locked out union employees at eight Bay Area health centers for four days, the National Labor Relations Board's general counsel has found, the Sacramento Bee reports (LePage, Sacramento Bee, 8/11).
Sutter locked out employees who went on strike for one day to protest what they said were unfair labor practices by Sutter, including staffing issues, career advancement and training programs. The striking Sutter employees -- represented by Service Employees International Union Locals 250 and 707 -- included vocational nurses, nurse assistants, lab assistants, dietary workers, housekeepers and supply workers (California Healthline, 12/6/04).
The NLRB general counsel's findings -- which were announced in an Aug. 8 letter to Sacramento-based Sutter and SEIU, United Healthcare Workers-West -- were based on an investigation of alleged unfair labor practices filed by the union.
The general counsel determined that the lockout was an illegal retaliation against the workers' strike, which occurred during stalled contract negotiations. NLRB seeks to recover millions of dollars in lost wages for the four-day period, plus accrued interest. However, NLRB has no authority to levy punitive damages.
If Sutter does not agree to settle NLRB's allegations, the case could be heard by a federal appeals court.
Sal Rosselli, president of SEIU-UHW, said a strike could occur in the near future if Sutter does not make concessions to the union related to funding for education and training and a process that would give care providers more authority over staffing levels.
Contract negotiations "again broke down" earlier this week, the Bee reports.
NLRB said it is investigating whether Sutter and its hospitals are to be classified as a single employer. Sutter says that each hospital is a separate employer and should negotiate its own union contract because the hospitals are governed independently. The unions disagree. At the end of the investigation, NLRB said it plans to file an unfair labor practices complaint against Sutter.
In addition, NLRB earlier this month said it found merit in allegations from some Sutter hospitals that the union was delaying contract negotiations. NLRB "is attempting to craft a settlement acceptable to both sides," the Bee reports (Sacramento Bee, 8/11).