Unions & Nursing FAQ

Q: Can an employer take punitive action against nurses who try to organize?

A: The National Labor Relations Act makes it unlawful for an employer to (1) interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of their rights to organize or (2) discriminate against an employee with regard to hiring practices, tenure of employment, or any term or condition of employment in order to encourage or discourage membership in a labor organization. This means that an employer cannot express or imply a threat of reprisal for organizing, or promise a benefit for refraining from organizing.

Although an employer is prohibited from engaging in certain types of activities to thwart organizing, this does not mean employees will not encounter strong opposition. An employer has the right to voice its opinions and attitudes about unions and the unionization of its operation, provided its communications and actions carry no direct or implied threat toward employees.

Q: What types of organizing activities are permissible in a hospital?

A: The National Labor Relations Board has stated that nurses have a right to engage in union solicitation during their free time while at work, provided that such activities are conducted in non-patient care areas and are consistent with solicitation opportunities afforded other organizations.

Q: Can nurses be forced to go on strike?

A: No one can force a bargaining unit to strike. Only unit members themselves can make such a decision.  If nurses decide to strike, they do not abandon patients on short notice. Provisions set forth in the 1974 Health Care Amendments to the National Labor Relations Act guarantee continuation of adequate patient care by requiring advance strike notice and mandatory mediation, among other conditions.