The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)'s ruling of the case - Oakwood Healthcare
Inc. - will compromise quality patient care by reclassifying some registered nurses as "supervisors." The
removal of these nurses' ability to join a union will strip them of union protection when speaking out for safe
patient care. Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA), the largest union in Washington State
representing over 13,000 RNs in nearly 50 health care facilities, denounces the NLRB decision as an assault on
patient care by stripping nurses’ rights to organize.
"Nurses are patient advocates first and foremost," said Kim Armstrong, RN, President of WSNA. "This
decision has a chilling effect to our ability to speak out about workplace issues that have a direct impact on safe
patient care." "Registered nurses use independent judgment, coordinate, and oversee the care of patients. These
core functions make him/her an excellent RN and patient advocate, not a supervisor," said Tim Davis, RN,
Chair of the Cabinet on Economic and General Welfare of WSNA.
Collective bargaining for nurses enjoys a long and successful history in Washington State. The hospitals in
Washington have long recognized the nurses’ desire to unionize and have voluntarily recognized WSNA's
representation of nurses. WSNA has represented nurses for collective bargaining since the 1940s. "We expect
to continue our relationship with the hospitals in Washington State and hope that they will honor and respect
nurses' choice to join a union. The RNs in Washington State will continue to fight for nurses' right to remain
protected by unions and to have a voice for safe patient care," said Barbara Frye, RN, Director of Labor
Relations at WSNA.
The NLRB rewrote broad definitions of supervisory duties, such as assigning work, responsibility to direct and
use of independent judgment. For instance, the board said workers are supervisors if they - on a regular basis,
even if it's infrequent - assign an employee to a particular unit or location, to work at a certain time, or to do a
significant task. Also, they would be supervisors if they are held accountable for job tasks they assign.
One of the most crucial benefits of union membership is protection from retaliation including being fired or
disciplined when nurses voice concerns on critical patient care issues like safe staffing and mandatory overtime.
The NLRB ruling will prevent many nurses from fighting for safer working conditions and quality patient care.