4th Cir.'s Decision Will Allow W. Virginia Nurses to Unionize

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on May 16, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Registered nurses employed by West Virginia's Greenbrier Valley Medical Center and Bluefield Regional Medical Center will be allowed to unionize after suit against their employers, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

The decision will allow the National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC) to move forward on the nurses behalf.

NLRA Again?

Last year, the National Labor Relations Board found that the two hospitals were, for various reasons, in violation of the NRLA and joined up with the NNOC to challenge the Greenbrier and Bluefield regional on behalf of the nurses.

At the beginning of negotiations, in an apparent bid to stall negotiations, the hospitals filed objections to the NNOC representatives, without listing any reasons why.

Hospitals Attack the NRLB

The point of view of the hospitals was that NLRB lacked a quorum of board members when it certified the NNOC to represent the nurses. Indeed, at the time of the certification, the terms for a majority of the NLRB's members had expired. But the NNOC argued that despite that being the case, the regional director still maintained the authority to certify the NNOC for representation. Indeed, much hubbub seemed to stem from whether an oral modification to the representation agreement could be uphelp or not.

The circuit seemed to agree with the NLRB's reasoning and noted that since 1961, regional directors have held the power to certify unions despite problems with quorum and the board. As it so happened in this case, the NRLB had appointed a new regional director on December 22, 2011 -- about a week before the board lost quorum.

"The regional director was well within his authority to overrule the objections and rescind the hearings notices, and indeed the board's rules directed him to do so in this circumstance," the court wrote in its opinion.

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