Union agrees to discontinue representation of MCHS-Austin nurses

Published 5:41 pm Friday, December 22, 2023

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has confirmed that the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 11-005 union is discontinuing representation of nurses at Mayo Clinic Health Systems-Austin following the submission of a petition earlier this month.

The announcement Friday comes days after Erin Krulish, a nurse at MCHS-Austin, filed the petition.

The NLRB is the federal agency responsible for enforcing federal labor law, which includes administering elections to install (or “certify”) and remove (or “decertify”) unions.

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“Worker democracy serves as the core of the USW, and therefore, we respect the majority’s decision,” said USW District 11 Director Cathy Drummond.  “We believe that many of the workers at Mayo were misled by a pro-corporate organization that does not have their best interests at heart. Should in the future these workers want to once again enjoy a seat at the table with their employer, they are always welcome in our union.”

Under NLRB rules, a union decertification petition must contain the signatures of at least 30% of the employees at a workplace to trigger a decertification election. Krulish’s petition contains signatures from a majority of coworkers.

While Krulish submitted a valid petition backed by the majority of her coworkers asking the NLRB to administer a vote to remove the Steelworkers union, the union’s announcement came before any vote was held.

“We’re happy that Ms. Krulish and her fellow support staff at the Austin Mayo Clinic are finally free of a Steelworkers union they’ve opposed for some time,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix Friday. “While this result is good, the case is another example of a union hierarchy that manipulated its government-granted powers to stick around in a workplace despite clear evidence employees wanted them removed.”

Last December, Krulish and her fellow employees voted 49-17 to revoke the union’s power to compel them to pay dues. Such an election, called a deauthorization vote, is the only way in non-Right to Work states, which Minnesota is, to stop a union from seizing dues from workers as a condition of employment, outside of completely decertifying the union.

A press release earlier this month from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation claimed that the Steelworkers union has the power to enter into contracts with Mayo Clinic management that force members to pay union dues or fees just to keep their jobs.

Even after a deauthorization vote, union bosses still retain their bargaining powers, which can only be eliminated by decertifying a union.

Krulish and her fellow employees sought to do this from the outset, but were limited by a non-statutory NLRB policy known as the “contract bar,” which immunizes unions from all worker attempts to vote the union out for up to three years while a union monopoly bargaining contract is in place.

Last December, with one year still left on the union contract, Krulish expressed her and her coworkers’ desire to decertify the union once the contract expired

“We plan to decertify come next December when our contract is up and we are ready for another fight,” she said.

A request for comment from United Steelworkers went unanswered by press time.