Catholic healthcare systems must treat employees 'respectfully and justly,' which includes a right to organize, labor network president writes.
The Catholic Labor Network, a national group focused on social justice and supporting workers, has reminded Trinity Health of New England of the ethical and religious directives of the Catholic Church after alleged retaliation by Trinity of two Mercy Medical Center nurses engaging in union activity.
Clayton Sinyai, president of the Catholic Labor Network, wrote a letter to Dr. Reginald Eadie, CEO of Trinity Health, a Catholic health system, saying the network is "deeply concerned" about action taken against the nurses, according to a press release from the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA).
The letter referenced ethical and religious directives of the Catholic church that say Catholic healthcare institutions such as Trinity must treat "employees respectfully and justly," which includes "the rights of employees to organize and bargain collectively without prejudice to the common good."
Sinyai sent the letter after the network learned the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a formal complaint against Trinity Health, finding that the hospital violated federal law protecting employees when they engage in union activity by reporting the two nurses to the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing.
The NLRB issued the formal complaint in May detailing that Trinity management submitted written allegations to the registration board last summer about two nurses because, according to the NLRB, the nurses "assisted the union and engaged in protected concerted activities and/or to discourage employees from engaging in such activities," therefore violating the National Labor Relations Act provision that says it is "unlawful for an employer to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of their rights."
"Trinity's complaints against the nurses were completely unfounded and fabricated only to intimidate and threaten them for engaging in union activities," the MNA said in the release.
The NLRB is an independent federal agency that protects the rights of private-sector employees to join together to improve their wages and working conditions.
"Instead of listening to nurses and improving patient care and working conditions, Trinity Health decided to retaliate against my protected union activity by filing a complaint that jeopardized my nursing license and also forced me to hire a lawyer to fight for my license," Alex Wright, RN, and co-chair of the MNA Bargaining Committee at Mercy Medical Center, one of the nurses involved, said in the release.
"This sort of behavior shows how intent Trinity is on undermining nurses' collective voices rather than giving us an equal seat at the table to make positive changes for nurses, patients and our community," Wright said.
Mercy nurses have engaged in public action throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, calling for improved safety standards for patients, nurses, and other healthcare workers.
“Instead of listening to nurses and improving patient care and working conditions, Trinity Health decided to retaliate against my protected union activity by filing a complaint that jeopardized my nursing license and also forced me to hire a lawyer to fight for my license.”
Alex Wright, RN
Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.
Photo credit: Davide Bonaldo
Trinity Health of New England reported two nurses to the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing for suspected union activity.
The NLRB found Trinity Health violated federal law by reporting the nurses.
The Catholic Labor Network has admonished Trinity with the reminder that Catholic hospitals must follow the ethical and religious directives of the Catholic Church.