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Board Overturns Vote by Nurses to Unionize

August 04, 2004|Steve Hymon | Times Staff Writer

The National Labor Relations Board has thrown out a vote by nurses to unionize at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, ruling that the California Nurses Assn. engaged in unfair tactics that influenced the election.

The NLRB's ruling, released Monday, found that anonymous threatening phone calls to an employee with known anti-union views was likely to have intimidated enough nurses to potentially change the election's outcome. The vote to unionize was decided by a margin of 695 to 627.

The board found that agents of the union had told the man, who owned pets, that his "little kittens would look good in frying pans." On another occasion, he was told that his dogs would be stabbed or run over with cars.

The rare decision by the NLRB is a setback to the union, because Cedars-Sinai is one of the largest and most prestigious hospitals in the West. The California Nurses Assn. represents about 58,000 nurses in the state in 165 hospitals.

In the last decade, nurses at hospitals throughout California have voted to join unions in order to seek better working conditions and pay. The process has often been contentious.

Chuck Idelson, a spokesman for the California Nurses Assn., said that the threats were "unfounded, unsubstantiated and uncorroborated allegations by one individual who was well known as the most anti-union official in the hospital."

Idelson said he believed that nurses at Cedars-Sinai would decide to unionize when another vote is held -- perhaps within the next year.

Cedars-Sinai officials said that numerous nurses complained of misconduct by the union in the days before the election. The hospital's initial challenge to the election was denied by the NLRB's regional office in March 2003. The hospital then appealed to the national office of the NLRB.

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