Nurses Charge Virginia Mason for Retaliation Against Nurses for Exercising Their Right to Refuse Flu Vaccination

SEATTLE -- Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA), representing more than 600 registered nurses at Virginia Mason Medical Center (VMMC), has filed an unfair labor practice charge against VMMC with the National Labor Relations Board.  The complaint states that within the past six months, VMMC has retaliated and discriminated against the registered nurses for exercising their contractual right to refuse flu vaccination by forcing them to wear masks.  VMMC implemented this new restriction unilaterally without good-faith bargaining as is required by the collective bargaining contract.

In early January, the United States District Court ruled in favor of the

WSNA in upholding the arbitrator's decision against VMMC, which stopped the hospital from forcing RNs to receive flu shots.  The Court decision "did not find that the arbitrator's decision is procedurally defective," thereby upholding the arbitrator's award by denying the VMMC's appeal.

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "no studies have definitively shown that mask use by either infectious patients or healthcare personnel prevents influenza transmission." "Forcing nurses who are not vaccinated to wear a mask is a punitive and discriminatory act.  This policy is not enforced uniformly with other employees and visitors.  It not only singles out and embarrasses the nurses who refused vaccination but also unnecessarily alarms patients and disrupts patient care," said Barbara Frye, RN, director of labor relations at WSNA.

WSNA says it absolutely supports the flu vaccination and in fact strongly

encourages nurses to get them. But it says it does oppose any healthcare facility threatening to fire or retaliate against nurses if they do not submit to the mandatory vaccination, especially in the absence of a declared public health emergency and a recommendation for mandatory vaccination by the CDC.

Source: Washington State Nurses Association

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