New York Union Violated Federal Labor Law

The N.Y. State Nurses Ass’n violated the Nat’l Labor Relations Act by failing to issue a 10-day strike notice when it directed its members to refuse to volunteer for overtime at Mt. Sinai Hosp., a divided National Labor Relations Board panel ruled July 27. Overturning a decision by an administrative law judge, the majority found that nurses who refused to volunteer for overtime work at the union’s request and those who refused assigned overtime were engaged in a concerted refusal to work within the meaning of NLRA Section 8(g). That section requires a union to issue a 10-day notice to the institution and the Fed. Mediation & Conciliation Serv. before engaging in any strike, picketing, or other concerted refusal to bargain at any health care institution.

In a 2-1 decision, Chairman Peter J. Hurtgen and Member John C. Truesdale directed the union to cease and desist from directing any concerted refusal to work, including a refusal to volunteer for overtime work at Mount Sinai, or any other health care institution, without first issuing the required 10-day strike notice.  The majority made it clear, however, that they were not suggesting that employees could not concertedly refuse to work voluntary overtime. Rather, they said, such a refusal must be preceded by the issuance of a 10-day notice if a union is responsible for the action.

In dissent, Member Wilma Liebman contended that the union did not engage in a strike or other concerted refusal to work. Rather, she said, “the nurses exercised their rights under a collective-bargaining agreement that authorized them to reject overtime work. Their action was perfectly proper under their contract and under the act.”   Criticizing her colleagues’ decision, Liebman said “creating legal obstacles to such efforts, where none exist, will not promote stable labor relations. It may well place an even greater burden on nurses who, despite their difficult working conditions, remain in such a vital profession.” [BNA 8/10/01]