Federal labor board finds further evidence of Johns Hopkins interfering in union effort

The National Labor Relations Board has found further evidence Johns Hopkins officials are restricting the rights of nurses trying to unionize.

This is the third time the labor board has found merit to such allegations since the National Nurses Organizing Committee filed a complaint in June, after the unionization effort began. Most recently, the labor board found there was merit to complaints that Hopkins officials created the impression they were surveilling unionization activity, which nurses said could have a chilling effect.

The nurses previously alleged that Hopkins officials barred nurses’ access to break rooms to discuss unionization and stopped nurses from talking about the union at work while allowing other nonwork conversations.

If Hopkins does not agree to a settlement, the labor board could issue a formal complaint against the hospital.

“We urge the hospital to live up to its own reputation by supporting nurses in our right to become even better patient advocates by forming a union,” said Janet Orlin, a nurse who cares for cancer patients, in a statement.

“The merit finding on this third allegation validates what RNs have been saying,” she said. “Nurses are simply exercising our legal right to seek union representation, and management is acting unethically or unlawfully in trying to stop us. On behalf of our patients, we call on Johns Hopkins to do better.”

The nurses who are organizing say they began pushing for a union because they were overworked and underpaid, and high turnover has created a shortage that puts patients at risk.

A Hopkins spokeswoman rebutted the nurses’ claims and reiterated their support for the professionals and their right to unionize.

“We deeply respect our nurses, their contributions to our organization, and all of their rights as employees including their right to support or oppose a union,” said Kim Hoppe, in a statement.

“These preliminary decisions by the local National Labor Relations office were an expected part of the process, and simply allow the claims to move to the next step,” she said.

“Final resolution could still require review by an NLRB administrative law judge, the National Labor Relations Board and the federal courts. We believe the union’s charges lack merit, and we stand by our workplace practices. Our nurses are critical to providing world-class care to our patients and their families. We are committed to maintaining our longstanding culture of collaboration and open communication with them and with all of our employees in order to provide the highest quality of care.”

National Nurses United is the largest nurses’ union in the United States, representing 150,000 registered nurses. There are about 3,000 nurses at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Workers can turn to the labor board if they believe their right to unionize is violated. The board can force elections if there is no settlement and appeal to federal courts to force companies to comply with labor law.

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

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