The Montana Nurses Association has withdrawn an unfair labor practices complaint against Kalispell Regional Healthcare that it filed in December with the National Labor Relations Board, citing facts that emerged during the board’s investigation.
The Montana Nurses Association (MNA) had alleged Kalispell Regional Healthcare (KRH) violated federal law with a leadership restructuring that was announced in November and impacted the hospital’s charge nurses. The MNA accused the hospital of trying to undermine a unionization effort among nurses.
After the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) investigated the complaint, originally filed on Dec. 5, the MNA withdrew it on Jan. 31.
“Due to the facts presented to the Montana Nurses Association (MNA) through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), MNA has decided to withdraw the unfair labor practice we filed,” the MNA said in a statement.
“As our goal is to always protect the rights of registered nurses to organize, we firmly believed our only option to guarantee an investigation occurred was to obtain assistance with the NLRB and we appreciate this process.”
A hospital spokesperson said the NLRB closed its investigation.
Neither the hospital nor the nurses association elaborated on the investigation’s details, other than Robin Haux, MNA’s labor program director, saying the NLRB required both parties to provide certain information and that her organization couldn’t “confirm the validity of what Kalispell Regional provided to the NLRB, nor can we prove it’s invalid unless more information is revealed.”
“We chose a path that allows up to keep our options open,” she said, adding that until registered nurses at the hospital “have a seat at the table in decision-making that impacts quality of care, we will have concerns and will be available to assist nurses in navigating those challenges.”
Upon filing the complaint in December, MNA Executive Director Vicky Byrd said KRH’s leadership restructuring was “an illegal unilateral change in working conditions” that violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) for the “purpose of interfering with employee rights to form a nurses union.”
KRH countered that it had “not taken any action” to interfere with the unionization effort, saying the hospital “respects the rights of our employees to either support or oppose representation by an outside labor union.”
Organizing nurses at KRH previously said they have had discussions with both the MNA and the Teamsters about unionizing.
The complaint came a week after KRH announced a “leadership redesign” to “adapt to the pressures of a rapidly changing healthcare environment” and “support financial stewardship.” The restructuring impacted 130 employees, including charge nurses, who are often among the most senior and experienced nurses in a hospital system.
Charge nurse positions were eliminated under the revised leadership model, and those nurses were then able to apply for new “shift unit supervisor” positions. The MNA alleged that KRH was laying off more than 100 charge nurses, although the hospital disputed the characterization of the changes as layoffs.
A hospital spokesperson said this week that 50 charge nurses were affected, and all of them except five, who received severance, “secured new clinical nursing positions, many of which were promotions.”
KRH released a statement in December that provided a point-by-point rebuttal of the allegations and rebuked the MNA for providing “blatantly false” and “divisive information to the public and our employees.”
“At Kalispell Regional Healthcare, we value the contributions that our nurses and employees make in supporting the delivery of high-quality patient care,” the hospital said.