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LABOR LAW a michigan hospital engaged in an unfair labor practice when it confiscated union-issued buttons worn by nurses during a dispute between the hospital and the union, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on May 15. Mt. Clemens General Hosp. v. National Labor Relations Bd., nos. 01-2263 and 01-2525. Registered nurses at Mt. Clemens General Hospital were represented by a union affiliated with the AFL-CIO. The dispute arose following the expiration of a provision of a collective bargaining agreement that required the hospital to pay nurses double for overtime. When the hospital refused to extend this provision, the union made buttons featuring a red circle with a slash across the letters “F.O.T.,” meaning “no forced overtime,” and distributed them to nurses throughout the hospital. Minutes after learning of the buttons, the hospital issued a directive banning them, saying they were an impermissible form of work stoppage under the collective bargaining agreement. The union filed a grievance, and an administrative law judge found that the hospital’s action was unfair labor practice in violation of the National Labor Relations Act. The National Labor Relations Board affirmed that ruling. The 6th Circuit also affirmed, ruling that the hospital violated 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1) by “discriminatorily requiring employees to remove union insignia from their uniforms, confiscating the insignia and enforcing an overly broad policy concerning such activity.” It said that the nurses were engaging in protected activity and not breaking the no-strike clause of the collective bargaining agreement.

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