The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) agreed with the Washington State Nurses Association and issued a complaint and notice of hearing to the Virginia Mason Medical Center (VMMC) for engaging in unfair labor practices against the registered nurses. WSNA, representing more than 600 registered nurses at VMMC, filed a complaint in January 2006 against the hospital on behalf of the RNs who were forced to wear face masks.
The complaint issued today by the NLRB charged that VMMC:
- failed and refused to disclose critical information that the WSNA is legally entitled to and requested in order to represent the nurses.
- provided “false and misleading information about its intention to implement such policy” to the WSNA in the Union’s request to bargain over an influenza immunization policy.
- refused to bargain with the WSNA before unilaterally implementing the policy forcing nurses to wear face masks.
“It is shocking and outrageous that Virginia Mason Hospital not only refused to provide information as required by law and refused to bargain over this policy as required by law, but also lied to the nurses and misled the nurse about their policy. We applaud the NLRB’s decision to charge Virginia Mason Hospital with the outlined unfair labor practices. Employers should be held accountable when they blatantly violate the law,” said Barbara E. Frye, RN, Director of Labor Relations at WSNA.
In early January, the United States District Court ruled in favor of the WSNA in upholding the arbitrator’s decision against VMMC and stopped the hospital from forcing RNs to receive flu shots. The decision by the United States District Court denied VMMC’s motion challenging the arbitrator’s decision, which would have allowed the hospital to make flu shots a condition of employment and fire RNs who did not comply. VMMC responded by unilaterally implementing a policy to require nurses who refused flu shots to wear face masks during their shift.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “no studies have definitively shown that mask use by either infectious patients or health-care personnel prevents influenza transmission.” The Institute of Medicine on April 27, 2006 agreed that “There's little evidence masks truly block the influenza virus, and if they can, how much protection they offer.”
WSNA absolutely supports the flu vaccination and in fact strongly encourages nurses to get them. But, it does oppose any health care facility threatening to fire or retaliate against nurses if they do not submit to the mandatory vaccination, especially in the absence of a declared public health emergency and a recommendation for mandatory vaccination by the CDC.