A nurse says she was intimidated and badgered while collecting signatures for a petition to dissolve the union at Research Medical Center.
The nurse, Kacy Warner, has filed a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board. The complaint says leaders of the National Nurses Organizing Committee of Missouri and National Nurses United of Kansas harassed her and some of her colleagues when they set up a table on May 14 to collect signatures to decertify the union.
"Union agents stood in front of the informational table, blocking it, and monopolized the employees' time by loudly badgering them," the grievance states. "These actions prevented, or tended to prevent, other employees from approaching the table and intimidated, or tended to intimidate, employees from entering the room and approaching the table."
The grievance says the union also stationed agents on either side of the door to the room that Warner and her colleagues had reserved for the petition drive.
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"These union agents intercepted those attempting to enter the meeting room and harassed them," it states.
Union leaders didn't respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Research Medical Center is owned by HCA Midwest Health, a for-profit hospital chain. An HCA Midwest spokeswoman released the following statement about Warner's complaint:
"Research Medical Center supports the legal rights of its employees to make up their own minds about union representation. Our employees should be able to make an informed choice about union representation in an atmosphere free from interference by any group or interest, and without intimidation, coercion, or harassment."
Warner is being represented by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a Virginia nonprofit that seeks to "eliminate coercive union power and compulsory unionism abuses through strategic litigation, public information, and education programs."
The nurses at Research Medical Center voted to unionize in 2010, saying they wanted to negotiate better pay and smaller per-nurse patient loads. Sixty-four percent of the nurses voted for the union at that time.
Warner is not a member of the union at Research Medical Center, but under state law non-members can still be forced to pay dues. A "Right to Work" bill passed by the Missouri legislature last year would change that, but it needs voter approval in the August primary elections.
In a statement, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation president Mark Mix tied Warner's federal grievance to that effort.
“Warner is doing the right thing by holding these union officials accountable for their intimidation tactics," Mix said. "Workers will only be protected from the injustice of forced union dues after the citizens of Missouri put their Right to Work law into effect.”
The petition Warner and her colleagues circulated needs the signatures of 30 percent of Research Medical Center's 698 nurses. If it reaches that threshold, the National Labor Relations Board would hold a secret ballot vote to determine whether a majority of workers want to decertify the union, which would remove it from the workplace.