Federal Labor Board Readies Complaint Against Alta Bates By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday August 12, 2005

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has authorized complaints against Alta Bates hospitals charging that they illegally locked out workers following a one-day strike. 

NLRB Field Attorney Micah Berul said Thursday that the hospitals will still have time to work out a settlement with members of United Health Care West (UHCW), which represents hospitals, including the Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs). 

Berul said there’s one issue left to be resolved before formal charges are filed: the union’s allegations that all the hospitals owned by Sacramento-based Sutter Health should be regarded as a single employer for the sake of labor negotiations. 

That charge had been held in abeyance while the NLRB investigated the lockout, and has now been reopened for investigation, Berul said. 

If no settlement on the lockout is reached by the time the board finishes its single employer investigation, the board will file formal charges that will be resolved in a hearing conducted by an administrative law judge, he said. 

“The lockout issue can be settled between the parties at any time until then,” Berul said. “If we didn’t have the other issue, charges would have been filed within two weeks of the board’s decision,” which was announced in an April 8 letter to the hospitals and the union. 

The hospitals can be held liable for the four days of lost wages, plus interest, said the attorney. A resolution would require a cease-and-desist order against the hospitals to block similar actions in the future, and the hospitals would be required to post notices of the NLRB findings. 

UCHW media spokesperson Thea Lavin said Sutter Health employees lost millions of dollars in wages in the lockout. 

In a statement issued to hospital employees Thursday, Mark Beiting, vice president of Human Resources for Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley, said that the union had filed “at least 29 charges of ‘unfair labor practice’ against our medical center.” 

He said 23 had already been dropped by the union or dismissed by the NLRB, leaving six issues to be resolved. 

“To date, NLRB investigators have not issued a single government complaint against the medical center on any of those charges, nor has our medical center been forced to settle any of these charges,” he said.›