IU Health reaches settlement with nurses, union

(WISH Photo, file)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — IU Health has come to terms with nurses who claimed unfair labor practices.

“IU Health has resolved the unfair labor practice (ULP) charges filed by the United Steelworkers union (USW) in recent months with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against IU Health,” hospital officials said in a statement Friday.

Nurses had previously claimed that IU Health was illegally stopping them from unionizing.

24-Hour News 8 first reported on the efforts to unionize back in April. The push was prompted by nurses’ claims that they had unfair workloads and felt pressured to go into work even when they were sick.

In documents filed with the NLRB, the nurses accuse IU Health of interrogating workers on whether or not they’re pro-union. They also claim nurse Lacie Little was wrongfully fired because she was trying to rally support while at work.

“The day I got fired, I felt devastated, I felt scared,” she said.

Already out of a job, she then feared her nursing career might officially be over.

“I was really worried that as we renew our license this year, I didn’t know if I would be able to,” she said.

That concern changed today, when IU Health and the nurses fighting them settled.

The settlement allows Little to receive some back pay. IU Health will also remove all disciplinary references from Little’s personnel files, as well as the personnel file of Heather Bragg. For Little, clearing her name was most important.

“I don’t want to have (the firing) on my reputation. I don’t want to have that on my nursing license because it’s something that I don’t feel was justified,” she argued.

Notices will be posted that advise employees of their rights under NLRA.

“It will be a relief especially for nurses who are new to (IU) Methodist, new to IU Health that that statement’s clear,” said Cynthia Wood, retired nurse who used to work at IU Methodist. “They will have no doubt in their mind about what’s legal, what’s not legal, what they can do and what they can’t do.”

Little added, “That’s a definite win, for not just the union nurses, but that’s a win for all nurses to be informed by the government of what is legal.”

Even though Little considers it a win, Wood says the jury is still out.

“I would say that the signs are all well and good but how it ends up being lived out in every day practice, time will tell,” she said.

The idea of forming a union has divided nurses at IU Health. Regardless, Little feels all of them can agree on their overall purpose.

“I just want to encourage nurses that we all have the same goal here. We all want to care for our patients and I really want to have everybody look at all the options, be educated, decide for yourself,” said Little about unionizing.

Here is the full statement Friday from IU Health:

The NLRB encourages parties to attempt to resolve matters prior to a formal hearing. IU Health’s discussions with the union have been successful in meeting that goal. Resolution of the union’s charges does not mean IU Health violated policies or acted unfairly or illegally in any way, and in fact the settlement agreement specifically preserves the position of IU Health that it did not violate the National Labor Relations Act. A settlement allows us to focus on the important work of caring for patients and supporting the team members who care for them, rather than prolonging unnecessary, costly and distracting legal matters. We will continue to comply with the law, and respect employees’ right to engage in protected, concerted activities under the National Labor Relations Act.”

IU Health is dedicated to providing patients with high quality care, and expects team members to uphold this commitment at all times. IU Health believes that its action have been entirely consistent with this expectation.

IU Health believes that a union is not in the best interest of our nurses or patients, and desires to remain a non-union work environment.”

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