200 Mayo nurses file for vote on leaving union

More than 200 of the 500 nurses with the Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato have filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board seeking a vote to decertify the Minnesota Nurses Association as their bargaining representative and leave the union. The nurses filed the petition with the NLRB’s regional office in Minneapolis with the legal assistance of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. The national right to work group “provides free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory union abuses” according to a news release announcing the action.

Brittany Burgess, a registered nurse of the Mayo Clinic, filed the petition. The request seeking to end MNA union officials’ monopoly bargaining powers at the Mayo Clinic was signed by more than two hundred nurses in the bargaining unit, well over the number needed to trigger an NLRB-conducted secret ballot vote to remove the union.

Minnesota is not a Right to Work state, meaning workers can be forced to pay dues or fees to union officials as a condition of getting or keeping their jobs. If the workers’ vote is successful, MNA union officials will be stripped of their monopoly “representation” powers, including the ability to impose a forced dues requirement on the nurses in the bargaining unit.

The NLRB still needs to process the Mayo nurses’ request to vote on ending representation by the Minnesota Nurses Association. But recently enacted reforms by the Trump administration to make the process of holding secret ballot decertification votes simpler may be in jeopardy.

Foundation-advocated reforms to decertification elections that were adopted by the NLRB in 2020 have curtailed union officials’ abuse of so-called “blocking charges” to delay or block workers’ from exercising their right to decertify a union on the basis of unproven allegations made against an employer, often completely unrelated to workers’ desire to free themselves of the union. However, just days ago the Biden-appointed NLRB majority announced it was starting rulemaking to overturn those reforms and make it easier for union officials to block decertification votes no matter how many rank-and-file workers want a vote.

“Ms. Burgess and her coworkers, who provide lifesaving medical care to the people of Minnesota, should not have to be subjects of Minnesota Nurses Association union bosses whose so-called ‘representation’ they oppose,” commented National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “These nurses represent just one example in what has been a surge of decertification efforts over the past year, which makes it all the more outrageous that the Biden Board has announced it intends to give union bosses more power to block workers from exercising their statutory right to vote out unions they oppose.”

The Minnesota Nurses Association lists a membership of some 22,000 members statewide. So far, the nurses’ challenge to the union has remained largely under the radar locally. But the union and Mayo Clinic both responded to the decertification attempt in a national trade publication.

In a statement shared with Becker’s, Tammie Fromm, operating room RN at Mayo Clinic Mankato and MNA negotiating team member, said the union has “successfully bargained for better contracts, organized for adequate PPE in the early days of the pandemic, and petitioned for adequate staffing levels to keep nurses at the bedside.” 

“We will continue to organize together to retain nurses and protect patient care in our communities,” she said. 

Mayo Clinic Health System also shared a statement with Becker’s, saying the petition “is a staff-led effort. We are grateful for the confidence the petitioners have in Mayo Clinic Health System.”

The disposition of the Mayo nurses’ challenge to the MNA may depend on how quickly the rules governing decertification petitions get reset by the Biden administration. That’s where the foundation says it comes in.

National Right to Work Foundation legal aid has recently assisted workers in numerous successful decertification efforts across the nation, including workers in Kansas, Illinois, and Delaware. Because the NLRB has made the decertification process unnecessarily complicated, workers often need to turn to Foundation attorneys for free legal aid in navigating the process.