Weeks after settling an unfair labor practice complaint, nurses at Maryville Academy's Behavior Health Hospital have authorized a strike against the Des Plaines hospital, the union said.
The Illinois Nurses Association, which represents 24 nurses who unionized with the association in August of 2012, said the strike is a response to labor practices at the hospital.
"After repeated attempts to negotiate a fair contract were rebuked or ignored, our members are forced to resort to a strike to motivate Maryville management to bargain in good faith," INA executive director Alice J. Johnson said in a release.
Nurses plan to picket outside the hospital, 555 W. Wilson Lane, starting March 10 and continuing through March 15, the release states.
Maryville spokesman John Gorman said the hospital has held 25 meetings with the nurses association since March of last year, and put in "hundreds of man hours" in negotiations.
"I don't know what their definition of good faith bargaining is, but that certainly meets mine," he said.
The hospital could hire nurses on contract if needed during a strike, Gorman said, adding that a team of supervisory nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and others assist in caring for patients.
Both Gorman and Johnson said a federal mediator will join negotiations on Monday, and both expressed hope that the mediator's presence could help prevent a strike.
In January, the INA announced a settlement with the hospital stemming from a complaint filed in August of last year with the National Labor Relations Board.
Chief among the complaint's accusations was that hospital officials refused to negotiate with the association on issues stemming from staffing levels and safety concerns at the inpatient facility formally known as Scott Nolan Psychiatric Hospital, which serves patients ages 3 to 20.
In 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspected the hospital and issued seven citations — five of which were later dropped on settlement — according to OSHA records.
In one of the citations, classified as a "serious" violation in OSHA records, investigators found that hospital employees were sometimes "exposed to workplace violence hazards … especially when engaging with escalating patients."
"The employer has not developed or implemented adequate measures to protect its employees from this hazard," states the OSHA report dated Nov. 8, 2012. The hospital agreed to complete a multi-step plan to comply with OSHA regulations by May of this year, U.S. Department of Labor spokeswoman Rhonda Burke told the Tribune in January.
Gorman previously told the Tribune that the injuries outlined in the OSHA report took place over a five-year period. More than 110 people are involved in the care of the roughly 32 patients treated by the hospital on an average month, he said at the time.
Staffing levels at the hospital have always been appropriate to ensure safety, Gorman previously told the Tribune, adding that injuries to staff at Maryville are relatively low compared to hospitals with similar patient populations.
The terms of the settlement agreement call, in part, for both sides to bargain in good faith and for the hospital to notify the union before disciplining any union employees. It includes a "non-admission clause," which stipulates that the hospital does not admit to a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.