Will Courts Make Scofflaw NLRB Follow The Law?

The January 25 decision by the D. C. Circuit Court of Appeals in Noel Canning v. National Labor Relations Board, which declared that three appointments by President Obama to the Board were unconstitutional because they were made while the Senate was officially in session, has thrown decisions made the NLRB while those members sat on it into doubt, for good reason. However, the NLRB then announced that it would simply ignore the court’s ruling.

So what are businesses at the receiving end of some NLRB unfavorable decisions that included those illegally appointed members to do? To their credit, some are pressing the issue. On January 30, California hospital chain Prime Healthcare Services announced it would not follow at least two NLRB rulings issued while the illegally appointed members sat on the Board.

Then on February 4, Connecticut nursing home operator HealthBridge Management asked Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to issue a stay on a NLRB decision mandating that HealthBridge immediately reinstate 700  employees who had walked off the job on July 3, 2012, including some who may have committed acts of sabotage that endangered patients.

The HealthBridge case is especially egregious, given some of the strikers’ alleged actions, which are outlined in detail in HealthBridge’s stay request:

Utterly abandoning their responsibilities as caregivers, Union members endangered their patients by, among other things:

  • mixing up names on patients’ doors and photographs on patients’ medical records for patients in the Alzheimer’s ward of one of the Centers, making it nearly impossible to identify and care for those patients;
  • removing dietary stickers affixed to door name tags indicating how patients could safely be fed;
  • removing patients’ identification wristbands and patient identifiers from room doors and wheelchairs at another Center;
  • removing stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs from various units within one of the Centers;
  • removing patient medical records such as patient-care flow books and activities-of-daily-living flow sheets;
  • removing handles from patient lifts in an effort to make them inoperable; and
  • soiling patients’ clean linens, while damaging and tampering with washing machines.

As the responsible Union members surely anticipated, these acts of sabotage delayed and disrupted medical treatment for patients, thus placing those vulnerable persons in grave danger. Only prompt action by others at the Centers and good fortune prevented serious harm to patients. The Centers reported these incidents to local police, who in their reports noted that “the persons involved are presumed to be employees who are part of a protest taking place outside against [the Center].”

Justice Ginsburg rejected HealthBridge’s request, which will now go to Justice Antonin Scalia.

The NLRB’s blatant pro-union bias during the Obama administration is hardly news these days. What is outrageous is that businesses that are following the law in the face of a scofflaw federal agency need to take a stand publicly and even hire lawyers to make allow them to do so.

For more on the effects of unionization on health care, see David Bier and Iain Murray’s Labor Watch article on unionization in hospitals.