NLRB Rules Prime Healthcare Violated National Labor Relations Act
Last week, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Prime Healthcare violated the National Labor Relations Act in its negotiations with Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West over health plans for employees at a California hospital, Law360 reports.
In 2010, Prime proposed changing its health plan offerings from an HMO and PPO option administered by Anthem Blue Cross to an exclusive provider option and PPO option. The exclusive provider option would require employees to use hospitals in Prime's network.
However, SEIU-UHW raised concerns about the quality of care at Prime's hospitals, as well as about higher costs. The union later requested more information about quality of care, but Prime refused to deliver it, Law360 reports. SEIU-UHW said that doing so was illegal.
After Prime announced the health plan options and said that employees could nominate providers to be included in the network, SEIU-UHW requested that Prime include options for high- and low-level PPO plans. Prime denied the request.
However, Prime later presented a final option that included high- and low-level options and declared an impasse. The proposal also included a provision that said raises would be awarded when the contract was ratified.
However, the final offer was amended a couple months later to award pay raises by July 1, 2010. The plans were implemented on Jan. 1, 2011.
Details of Ruling
According to Law360, NLRB found that the two parties continued negotiations after Prime had declared an impasse.
According to NLRB, "[E]ven after the respondent declared impasse, the parties continued to negotiate and to reach agreement on substantive provisions of the collective bargaining agreement." The board added, "These eleventh-hour changes in the respondent's bargaining proposals ... persuade us that the respondent was not warranted in assuming that further bargaining would be futile."
The decision upheld a ruling by administrative law Judge Gerald Etchingham.
Both the judge and NLRB ordered Prime to:
- Cease and desist its collective bargain refusal with the union;
- Provide the requested information;
- Reimburse employees for sustained costs; and
- Undo unilateral changes to its coverage options (Kass, Law360, 11/25).
Judge Dismisses Prime Lawsuit
In related news, a federal judge last week dismissed a Prime lawsuit against SEIU-UHW alleging that the union used "extortion" to organize employees, Reuters reports.
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel ruled that the union's tactics were "hard bargaining" but not illegal (Pierson, Reuters, 11/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.