News Story

Unionization Campaign Roils Royal Oak Hospital

‘I think it’s a money grab,’ says one nurse

A union organizing effort by the Michigan Nurses Association at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak has become “divisive and angry” and threatens the hospital’s reputation for giving quality patient care, according to a nurse involved in efforts to thwart the drive.

Lorie Hall, a nurse practitioner with 30 years of experience who has been at Beaumont since 2005, said the organizing effort, launched in April, has met widespread resistance among 3,200 nurses. Resistance, she said, that has been ignored by the media and suppressed by heavy-handed union tactics.

“My impression is that there are a lot of people out there who don’t support (unionization), but they’re afraid to say anything,” Hall said.

Opponents of the union drive believe a successful campaign will add expense and another layer of bureaucracy to an overburdened system, Hall said. She added they have faced online intimidation as they try to provide anti-union materials to their colleagues. “I think it’s a money grab,” she said. “If they get (certified), the union would be taking $2.2 million a year (in dues) out of here.”

The union claims it has the support of 1,900 Beaumont nurses. In July it successfully lobbied the Oakland County Board of Commissioners to approve a resolution urging Beaumont not to interfere by propagandizing against the union to employees.

That resolution has no practical effect.

But the union has also filed an unfair labor practice claim with the National Labor Relations Board over hospital-sponsored education forums for nurses. The union claims the forums were mandatory and had an anti-union bias; the hospital has denied the charge.

Less well reported, Hall said, is a parallel complaint to the NLRB, filed by one of her colleagues at the hospital. The colleague alleges that union officials and their allies engaged in intimidating behavior when she was distributing anti-union informational material in the hospital cafeteria.

Hall said the push for unionization is wrongheaded on multiple levels.

The union won’t be able, because of the realities of the health care marketplace, to deliver on its promises, she said. It is, she said, damaging Beaumont’s reputation as a provider of quality care by blaring protests about “Patients over Profit.”

Hall said that, in her experience, Beaumont is a decent employer that pays competitive wages and provides decent working conditions. Complaints about either can be addressed without a union, she said.

Hall said 350 nurses had signed an online petition opposing the unionization effort.

Further, she said she believes the claims of support for the union are exaggerated. Beaumont’s nurses have so far not been asked to sign cards calling for a vote on unionization, she said, although the support of only 30% of eligible employees is required to force a vote.

Interestingly, in a survey released in April by WalletHub, salaries for Michigan nurses ranked second-highest in the nation when adjusted for the cost of living.

Jessica Newman, a spokeswoman for the nurses union, said none of its prospective members at Beaumont was immediately available for comment.