NLRB Decision Angers Unions; Labor: Rules Exclude Millions
Byline: Sean Lengell, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The federal government yesterday established new guidelines for considering a worker a supervisor, a decision organized labor says will exclude millions of Americans from joining unions.
In a long-awaited health care case involving a group of "charge nurses" at a Michigan hospital, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled the nurses should be considered supervisory staff and thus not covered by a federal law allowing them to join a union.
Charge nurses serve as a head shift nurse for a unit or ward and assign duties to other nurses. But they typically don't have the authority to hire and fire or perform evaluations on other employees, which union groups say is a vital benchmark for classifying an employee as a supervisor.
The decision was one of three related rulings grouped as the "Kentucky River" cases because they were intended to clarify the supervisor question from a case several years ago involving Kentucky River Community Care Inc. in Hazard, Ky.
Union leaders denounced the 3-2 decision, saying it would have broad implications for workers in many fields. The vote was split along party lines.
The AFL-CIO labor federation said the new ruling would strip at least 8 million workers of their right to have a union by reclassifying them as supervisors in name only.
"Today's decision is the latest in the Bush-appointed NLRB's legal maneuvering to deny as many workers as possible their basic right to have a voice on the job and improve their living standards through their union," AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said. "The NLRB should protect workers' rights - not eliminate them."
Mr. Sweeney added the ruling "threatens to create a new class of workers under federal labor law: workers who have neither the genuine prerogatives of management, nor the statutory rights of ordinary employees."
The decision was not a surprise since Republicans have the majority on the five-member board, said Roland Zullo of the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations at the University of Michigan.
"This is what happens when you have a political party in power that is just not friendly to labor - you get decisions like this," Mr. …