Court rejects LV hospital union vote appeal

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — A federal appeals court has flatly rejected a Las Vegas hospital's effort to nullify a union authorization vote it has been fighting since 2007.

The opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., rejected all of Alta Vista Regional Hospital's arguments for throwing out the election results and calls its efforts stalling tactics. Hospital officials have refused to recognize the union while losing appeals to the National Labor Relations Board to nullify the vote, according to a report ((http://bit.ly/PUfrqA) Wednesday by Las Vegas Optic.

"As we noted at the outset, the hospital unleashed a blizzard of arguments to challenge the board's unfair-labor-practice orders," the Nov. 2 appeals court ruling states. "It might be appropriate to suggest that in appellate argument, the proverbial rifle is preferable to a machine gun — but that would assume petitioner had at least a few good arguments; it did not.

"In truth, it appears to us that all the hospital sought was the inevitable delay that review of board orders affords. This is regrettable," the court wrote.

Hospital spokesman Mathew P. Martinez issued a written statement Tuesday saying the hospital was considering whether to appeal.

Officials with the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees District 1199 NM, which will represent Alta Vista employees, hailed the ruling. President Fonda Osborn said the union has already sent the hospital a certified letter asking to begin negotiations.

"Our goal is to negotiate a fair contract for the workers over there that will give them some job security and maybe some increased wages and benefits," she said.

Osborn said union attorneys have told her the hospital has 30 days to file an appeal.

District 1199 already represents employees at University of New Mexico Hospital, Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center and at the hospital in Los Alamos.

The union at Alta Vista Regional Hospital will represent everyone from nurses, technicians and pharmacists to clerks, housekeepers and laundry aides. Only management, doctors, guards and human resources workers are not included, union organizer Yolanda Contreras said.

District 1199 petitioned for an election in a bargaining unit combining all on-site professional and non-professional employees at the hospital more than five years ago. The hospital objected, contending, among other things, that it was inappropriate to combine all hospital employees into a single bargaining unit.

The National Labor Relations Board's regional director rejected the hospital's argument and the board itself refused to overturn the regional director's decision.

A secret-ballot election was held in June 2007, and employees voted overwhelmingly — 121 to 73 — for union representation. The hospital filed an appeal with the National Labor Relations Board objecting to the election's procedures, but the federal agency rejected Alta Vista's assertions and certified the union.

The hospital has refused to bargain with the union and has been appealing the election ever since. Alta Vista's parent company is Tennessee-based Community Health Systems Inc.

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Information from: Las Vegas Optic, http://www.lasvegasoptic.com

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