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A group of nurses has filed a formal complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against Johns Hopkins Hospital for allegedly impeding their efforts to form a union.
A group of nurses has filed a formal complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against Johns Hopkins Hospital for allegedly impeding their efforts to form a union. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

A group of registered nurses has filed a formal charge with the National Labor Relations Board against Johns Hopkins Hospital for allegedly impeding their efforts to form a union.

National Nurses United announced the labor complaint Monday, alleging that hospital management prevented nurses from discussing unionization by barring nurses on their days off from visiting their peers in other departments while they were on breaks.

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The nurses group also alleged Monday that the hospital hired anti-union consultants, who were “allowed free rein in the hospital to promote an anti-union agenda.”

“Our patients deserve the best patient care from us but instead of investing in the nurses that provide the direct care, our hospital has diverted patient care dollars to professional union busters,” said Helen Paik, a registered nurse in Hopkins’ medical intensive care unit, in a statement. “It is a shame that my colleagues are subjected to misinformation and intimidation by labor consultants who roam our units falsely claiming to be neutral.”

Kim Hoppe, a spokeswoman for Johns Hopkins Medicine, said in an email that the hospital had not seen the complaint filed with the NLRB, but the institution takes the allegations seriously.

“At The Johns Hopkins Hospital, 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,” she wrote. “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.”

Some nurses at the Johns Hopkins Hospital are attempting to form a union, saying that they are overworked, union officials said Monday.

Workers may file charges against employers with the NLRB if they believe their federal rights to organize as a union and engage in collective bargaining are violated. The board investigates charges and encourages parties to settle, but can also intercede to hold elections and appeal to the federal courts to force companies to comply with labor law.

The Hopkins nurses launched an effort to unionize with National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United earlier this year, saying they are overworked and underpaid compared to their counterparts at other hospitals.

The union organizing effort needed a majority of the hospital’s 3,200 nurses to sign cards expressing their interest to hold a vote supervised by the NLRB.

"We are coming together to address safe staffing, pay, benefits, and working conditions — all of which affect our ability to provide quality patient care,” said Alex Laslett, a registered nurse in Hopkins’ surgical intensive care unit, in a statement. “Management should not be paying so much money to stop us from talking to each other.”

The National Nurses Organizing Committee is part of National Nurses United, which represents 150,000 registered nurses, according to National Nurses United’s website.

The nurses’ push to organize is unusual in Maryland. Few nurses in the state are represented by a union.

Roy Hong, organizing director for National Nurses United, could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

Baltimore Sun reporter Andrea K. McDaniels contributed to this story.

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