(Pontiac, MI) – The Oakland County Board of Commissioners today passed a bi-partisan declaration of support for the Registered Nurses of Beaumont – Royal Oak hospital to form their union in an atmosphere free from intimidation. RNs first brought concerns to the Oakland County Board of Commissioners about Beaumont’s actions and their potential impact on patient care in late June, citing instances of nurses being pulled away from patients to attend meetings with outside labor consultants.
“Nurses in my department have had to cover extra patients because nurses were pulled away to these meetings,” said Irina Schmidt, RN, who works in the Emergency Center. “There was one particularly rough time when we had to cover for nurses at these meetings and three of us had to cover six critically ill patients. I know too many of my colleagues have been put in similar situations. This shouldn’t be happening.”
While executives at Beaumont have maintained that nurses have not been taken away from patient care, RNs shared comments with the commissioners from numerous nurses contradicting this claim. Beaumont executives have also maintained that the outside labor consultants they have hired are “neutral.” Beaumont has hired, among other firms, Kulture Consulting, whose website has a quote from their founder stating that unions “can devastate a Company and its employees.” Joe Brock, who founded Reliant Labor Consultants, has also been running some of these meetings. Reliant’s website advertises their services as “avoiding a union,” “fighting a union,” and “maintaining a union free environment.”
On July 9, Beaumont nurses filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the hospital’s administration. The charge states that hospital executives have violated federal law by attempting to interfere with, restrain and coerce nurses from exercising their rights. The allegations of illegal behavior by management include interrogating employees about their posting on a private Facebook page, changing the job duties of a union supporter in an effort to isolate her from other nurses, and threatening the loss of favorable working conditions for employees if they choose to organize a union.
“It’s very disturbing to keep hearing that Beaumont continues to take nurses away from patient care to attend meetings, which appear aimed at interfering with the union organizing effort,” said David T. Woodward, Oakland County Board of Commissioners Chairman and one of the lead sponsors of the resolution. “We have a responsibility to send a message that patient care should come first and all workers’ rights should be respected. We hope Beaumont will do the right thing and let the nurses decide for themselves about whether to form a union.”
Nurses initially launched their organizing drive with a public letter signed by 100 RNs calling to form a union. Since then, the effort has grown dramatically with hundreds of nurses actively working to form a union. A pro-union Facebook group has nearly 1900 Beaumont nurses as members. Nurses are in the process of building overwhelming majority support prior to filing for a union election.
“We want to form a union because we want to have a strong collective voice,” said Philomena Kerobo, RN, who works in the Family Birth Center. “A strong collective voice is good for our patients, our communities, and us. Together, we can build a better Beaumont.”
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The Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) is the largest, most effective union for RNs across the state. As the voice for all registered nurses in Michigan, MNA advocates for nurses and their patients at the Capitol, in the community, and at the bargaining table.