Indiana University Health has agreed to revoke disciplinary actions against two nurses who tried to organize a union at IU Health’s Methodist Hospital earlier this year, the United Steelworkers announced Friday.
The agreement settles charges filed by the union against IU Health. The National Labor Relations Board was pursuing an unfair labor case against the hospital before the settlement.
IU Health will rescind its firing of Lacie Little, a registered nurse who was helping distribute vote cards to other nurses. Little will be reimbursed for the wages she has lost since the March 30 firing, USW said.
IU Health also agreed to revoke undisclosed disciplinary actions against nurse Heather Bragg, another nurse leading the union organization.
Little waived immediate reinstatement to her position, but the agreement gives her the right to seek re-employment with IU Health in the future.
"I am glad to get this behind me," Little said in a written statement. "I will continue to work with the United Steelworkers to unionize the nurses at IU Health because I believe when nurses have a say in their working conditions, care for patients improves. I got involved in this from the get-go because I love the terrific doctors and nurses and staff at IU Health, and I want the best for all of the patients."
According to USW, IU Health agreed to post official notices alerting staff of their labor rights under federal law. That includes statements by the hospital system that it will not punish workers for supporting labor organization.
The notices will include the statement: "We will not threaten you with chart audits, harass you, or intimidate you because you engage in union activity or you choose to be represented by or support a union."
In documents filed with the NLRB, the union claimed IU Health’s managers intimidated nurses, improperly questioned nurses about the union, enforced its disciplinary policies inconsistently, maintained overly broad policies against solicitation of union support, and created “an impression of surveillance.”
IU Health acknowledged making the settlement.
"Resolution of the union's charges does not mean IU Health violated policies or acted unfairly or illegally in any way, and in fact the settlement agreement specifically preserves the position of IU Health that it did not violate the National Labor Relations Act," IU Health said Saturday in a written statement. "A settlement allows us to focus on the important work of caring for patients and supporting the team members who care for them, rather than prolonging unnecessary, costly and distracting legal matters. We will continue to comply with the law, and respect employees' right to engage in protected, concerted activities under the National Labor Relations Act."
Bragg and Little were both part of the 70-nurse organizing committee trying to form the union. That committee, which started taking shape in January, was trying to get at least two-thirds of the nurses at each of IU Health’s three downtown hospitals to sign petitio
According to IU Health, there are about 1,500 nurses at Methodist, about 1,000 at IU Health’s Riley Hospital for Children, and about 730 at IU Health’s University Hospital. Those three hospitals are all within two miles of one another downtown.
"IU Health is dedicated to providing patients with high-quality care, and expects team members to uphold this commitment at all times," it said in Saturday's statement. "IU Health believes that its action have been entirely consistent with this expectation. IU Health believes that a union is not in the best interest of our nurses or patients, and desires to remain a non-union work environment."