Hospital Must Negotiate with Nurses

9th Circuit CourthouseCan we talk?  A federal appeals court says the new owners of the Community Hospital of Huntington Park need to start talking to the California Nurses Association as the official labor representative for their nurses.

The hospital management refused to recognize or bargain with the CAN.  As a result the director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) asked Judge Otis Wright in Los Angeles to impose an injunction and order hospital administrators to recognize the CAN and start talks.

Wright agreed based on the failure to bargain in good faith with the nurses’ chosen representative and that the new hospital owners were successor employers to the sellers of the hospital.

Community Hospital appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  Judge Stephen Reinhardt, writing for the three-judge panel said the balance of harms tips in favor of the union.  Without the injunction the hospital will have succeeded for now in blocking union organizing efforts.  By contrast, with the injunction, the hospital is compelled only to bargain in good faith.

The dispute began in March 2010 when the CAN sent a letter to the Avanti Health Systems while it was negotiating the purchase of the hospital from bankrupt Karykeion Co.  The CAN notified Avanti that it would be a successor employer and required to recognize CAN and bargain with it.

The union was told by Daniel Ansel, the Karykeion’s CFO that “Avanti didn’t want the union no matter what,” according to the opinion.  They were told Avanti would only buy the facility if there was no union, Reinhardt wrote.

After the purchase, Community Hospital argued that only the NLRB could issue the orders to bargain, not the district court.  The district judge infringed on NLRB authority, according to Community Hospital arguments.

But the panel rejected the argument as “clearly contrary to well established law.”

Both sides now need to sit down and talk.

 Case:  Small v. Avanti Health Systems,  No.  11-55563

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