St. Vincent Hospital nurse Regina Renaud has hit the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) union at the facility with federal charges, asserting that union officials are illegally demanding nurses pay union dues for time periods when there was no contract in effect between the hospital and union. Renaud filed the charges at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
Renaud’s charges come as hundreds of St. Vincent Hospital nurses have requested a vote whether to remove the MNA union from the facility. During a more than 300-day strike ordered by MNA union officials that finally concluded in early January, St. Vincent nurse Richard Avola gathered signatures from enough of his coworkers to prompt the NLRB to arrange such an election, and on January 11 an agreement was reached scheduling the election to begin on February 4. The disastrous strike clearly divided the nurses, the hospital, the community, and the patients.
Media reports indicate that union militants harassed and bullied nurses who returned to the hospital to care for patients during the protracted strike. Union partisans reportedly put photographs of working nurses on strike paraphernalia and took illicit pictures of nurses’ license plates, among other tactics. Despite credible reports of union harassment of nurses who exercised their right to work, high-profile elected officials including U.S. Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren expressed support for the union boss-ordered strike.
Renaud’s charge reports that she is not an MNA member but is still forced to pay a portion of full union dues to keep her job. In states like Massachusetts that lack Right to Work protections, even workers who refuse full union membership can be forced to pay money to union officials to stay employed. However, this requirement is suspended in the absence of a monopoly bargaining contract between an employer and union. In Right to Work states, union membership and financial support are always strictly voluntary.
Renaud’s charge notes that, during the strike, no contract was in effect between MNA and St. Vincent management and “[a]s a matter of law the Charging Party and other similarly situated employees owed no dues or fees to the MNA during that contract hiatus.” However, on January 5, 2022, MNA sent bills to Renaud and other nurses who are not union members, ordering them to pay dues for a time period that included the contract hiatus.
“Thus, MNA is demanding and attempting to collect retroactive dues for several past months in which the Charging Party and other similarly situated nurses did not owe any dues and could not legally be required to pay such dues as a condition of employment…,” the Unfair Labor Practice charge states.
“In the aftermath of the long-drawn-out MNA boss-ordered strike on St. Vincent Hospital, evidence is rapidly emerging on the coercion and retaliation that union officials inflicted on the very nurses they claim to represent,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Ms. Renaud’s charges show that MNA officials ignored even the most basic legal protections for workers who do not wish to financially support a union.”
“St. Vincent Hospital nurses are fully justified in exercising their right to vote out MNA union officials. Any nurses who encounter union attempts to infringe on that right or who experienced other MNA malfeasance should reach out to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal aid,” Mix added.