Health Care & Insurance  November 30, 2023

Court orders CommonSpirit to include Longmont nurses in future systemwide pay increases

LONGMONT — A U.S. District Court judge for the District of Colorado has issued a temporary injunction prohibiting CommonSpirit, the newly named company that was previously Centura Health, from excluding Longmont United Hospital nurses from future pay increases that apply to other nurses in the health care system.

But even though CommonSpirit/Centura has already provided five pay or benefit increases to other nurses since Longmont nurses filed for inclusion in a union, the judge did not order retroactive pay increases to align with what other nurses are being paid in the system.

As a result, Longmont nurses, unless CommonSpirit bumps pay again, will be paid as much as $6 per hour less than other nurses in the system.

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The court case arose as a result of a vitriolic labor dispute that began in April 2021 when nurses at Longmont United filed to be included in the National Nurses United/AFL-CIO. After challenges to the voting, nurses won the unionization effort on a 94-93 vote.

During the process, Centura increased wages or benefits for nurses but specifically excluded Longmont United nurses, claiming that they needed to maintain the status quo until all issues with the unionization and contract negotiation were resolved.

In every case, Centura included in its wage-increase message that Longmont United nurses were excluded, which the union believed was an effort to force the nurses union to decertify.

According to affidavits filed in the case, nurses under economic pressure left the system for higher paying jobs elsewhere. About 40 or 50 nurses remain in the bargaining unit, the union said, and contract negotiations have yet to begin.

The National Labor Relations Board filed an unfair labor practice claim against Centura, and an administrative law judge ruled that Centura had violated the law. The administrative law judge, John T. Giannopoulos, determined that by implementing wage and/or benefits to employees across the Centura network but expressly excluding Longmont Unit RNs from those increases, Centura “engaged in discriminatory conduct that could have adversely affected employee rights.”

The “foreseeable effect” of the employer’s actions was to discourage employees’ protected activity “by sending an unmistakable message to the employees that they were being punished for their support of the union and to warn them and others,” the NLRB said.

The ALJ recommended that Centura “cease and desist” from informing Longmont nurses that they would not be included in wage increases and make retroactive payments to those nurses.

The NLRB is now considering those recommendations, which may require months or years to resolve.

As a result, Matthew Lomax, regional director of Region 27 of the NLRB, filed with the district court for a temporary injunction that would force Centura to cease and desist from excluding Longmont nurses from pay increases and to order the hospital group to bring pay to Longmont nurses in line with what it is paying other nurses in the network.

District Judge Nina Wang questioned her authority to intervene to the degree requested because an order as requested would get to the heart of a decision that the NLRB had yet to make. 

“This court can only grant the relief that is ‘reasonably necessary to preserve the ultimate remedial power of the board (NLRB) and is not to be a substitute for the exercise of that power,” she wrote in her decision.

She said that despite the NLRB’s determination and the administrative law judge’s ruling that Centura has continued to act in the same manner when it increased systemwide wages a fifth time without including Longmont nurses.

“Without a cease and desist order, respondent is free to continue its conduct (that has already been determined to be unlawful by the ALJ),” Wang wrote.

As a result, she ordered Centura to cease excluding Longmont nurses from future systemwide  increases but did not order retroactive pay increases.

She then ordered Centura to notify Longmont nurses of the decision within 14 days of her Nov. 16 order and report back to the court within 21 days.

A message sent to CommonSpirit’s communications department was not returned prior to publication of this report.

The case is Matthew S.Lomax, regional director of Region 27 of the NLRB vs. Longmont United Hospital and Centura Health, case number 2023cv02297 filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

LONGMONT — A U.S. District Court judge for the District of Colorado has issued a temporary injunction prohibiting CommonSpirit, the newly named company that was previously Centura Health, from excluding Longmont United Hospital nurses from future pay increases that apply to other nurses in the health care system.

But even though CommonSpirit/Centura has already provided five pay or benefit increases to other nurses since Longmont nurses filed for inclusion in a union, the judge did not order retroactive pay increases to align with what other nurses are being paid in the system.

As a result, Longmont nurses, unless CommonSpirit bumps pay again,…

Ken Amundson
Ken Amundson is managing editor of BizWest. He has lived in Loveland and reported on issues in the region since 1987. Prior to Colorado, he reported and edited for news organizations in Minnesota and Iowa. He's a parent of two and grandparent of four, all of whom make their homes on the Front Range. A news junkie at heart, he also enjoys competitive sports, especially the Rapids.
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