NEW BEDFORD — The National Labor Relations Board has dismissed a complaint filed by the administration of St. Luke's Hospital that alleged voter fraud in the November 29 election by nurses to unionize.

The complaint, filed by Southcoast Health on December 6, alleged that a nurse wasn't able to vote in the election because another nurse had used her identity to cast a ballot. Administrators also accused the Massachusetts Nurses Association of distributing material prior to the vote that misrepresented the amount of support for a union.

Debra Falk, an emergency room nurse and representative of St. Luke's United, says she testified before the NLRB several weeks ago and was happy to learn of their ruling on Monday.

"Basically, the election spoke for itself," said Falk. "We won by an overwhelming majority and the Labor Board found that the charges that the hospital was alleging were unfounded."

The singular vote in question, said Falk, boiled down to a simple misunderstanding.

"One of the nurses had voted. [The election officials] thought she already had, but it turned out there were four other nurses with a similar name. It wasn't mistaken identity. It was just a clerical issue. But it didn't affect the vote in any way."

Falk says over the next week, nurses will vote to establish union officers. Nurses will be eligible for the positions of co-chairs, grievance chairperson, secretary, treasurer, local labor representatives, and negotiating committee members.

Once those positions are filled, Falk says, negotiations between the union and administration can begin.

"We're just looking forward to sitting with management and working out a contract that's going to benefit everybody, staff and patients. That's the primary goal."

A request for comment from Southcoast Health administrators was not immediately returned on Monday.

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