CHARLESTON – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has ruled that nurses at two West Virginia hospitals are allowed to unionize despite opposition from their employers.

The court ruled in favor of registered nurses and Bluefield Regional Medical Center and Greenbrier Valley Medical Center after the nurses challenged the hospitals’ refusal to allow the National Nurses Organizing Committee to serve as their bargaining representative.

The National Labor Relations Board found that the hospitals were in violation of the National Labor Relations Act and joined the NNOC to challenge the hospitals.

The matter was before Appeal Court Judges G. Steven Agee and Stephanie Thacker and U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson. It was argued on Jan. 26 and decided on May 6.

When the registered nurses elected the NNOC as their bargaining representative in August 2012, the hospitals challenged the election results and refused the union’s requests to bargain, according to the opinion.

The NLRB issued a final decision concluding the hospitals violated the National Labor Relations Act by refusing to bargain with the union and the board then brought an application for enforcement before the court, which the hospitals opposed.

The appeals court granted the board’s application for enforcement, according to the opinion.

The hospitals argued that the NNOC’s claim to represent the nurses was invalid because the NLRB lacked a quorum when it voted to certify the union to represent the nurses.

The hospitals also argued that although a regional director of the board had authority to certify the union, he lacked that authority when the board did not have a quorum, and because he was appointed during a period when the board’s general counsel was “not validly holding his position,” his own appointment was not valid.

The hospitals admitted they were award that their supporting evidence for their filed objections was to be submitted in the respective cases no later than Sept. 12 and 13, 2012, and they declined to submit any evidence and made no request for an extension of time to submit evidence, according to the opinion.

The hospitals argued they were not obligated to submit evidence in support of their objections because they had an oral agreement with the union to submit the latter to an arbitrator.

“The regional director overruled their objections on September 24, well after the 7-day deadline had passed,” the opinion stated. “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.”

“We therefore conclude the Hospitals’ sole challenge to the merits of the Board’s final decision to be baseless,” the opinion states.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit case number: 15-1203

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