Beaumont Royal Oak accused of targeting nurses seeking to unionize

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

The National Labor Relations Board claims Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak mistreated nurses who sought to form a union and interfered in those efforts.   

The independent federal agency issued a complaint Friday, more than six months after the Michigan Nurses Association filed an unfair practice charge against hospital management. 

The group alleged the hospital threatened employees involved in the union drive and changed a union supporter's job duties to isolate her from other nurses.

Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak

In its Jan. 31 filing, the NLRB cited multiple violations of the National Labor Relations Act, including hospital officials interrogating employees about their postings on a private Facebook page; threatening the loss of favorable working conditions or outsourcing if staffers opted to choose to form a union; moving to prohibit the distribution of pro-union materials; and announcing a rule to prohibit workers from talking about unions.

“This ruling comes as no surprise — we’ve been saying all along that Beaumont violated our legal rights to talk about patient care and other issues in our workplace,” Philomena Kerobo, a Beaumont registered nurse, said in a statement Monday. “We are proud Beaumont nurses advocating for our patients, and it’s very disappointing that our employer has treated us this way. I’m glad to see steps toward holding Beaumont administrators accountable for their illegal behavior.”

In a statement, Susan Grant, Beaumont's health chief nursing officer, said the hospital system "complies with federal labor law. We believe the allegations in the Michigan Nurses Association’s one remaining charge are unfounded — just like the numerous allegations it already dropped or withdrew. We look forward to presenting our case before an administrative law judge."

Grant went on to say: "We are proud of our nurses at Beaumont, Royal Oak for consistently being leaders in nursing excellence. ...We remain committed to our longstanding culture of excellence, collaboration and open communication with our nurses and all employees who are essential to our mission to provide compassionate, extraordinary care every day. "

The labor board called for Beaumont to rescind rules perceived as anti-union, such as banning buttons and pins with writing not approved by hospital officials.

Beaumont must respond to the complaint by Feb. 14, according to the board filing. A hearing before an administrative judge is scheduled for April 13 at the Patrick V. McNamara Federal Building in Detroit.