NEW BEDFORD — Southcoast Health is taking their case to a higher court, so to speak.

In a letter released to nurses at St. Luke's Hospital on Wednesday, Southcoast Health President and CEO Keith Hovan announced that the National Labor Relations Board Region One had overruled the objections made by Southcoast Health against the election to unionize held on November 29 by St. Luke's nurses.

Southcoast Health administrators filed a complaint on December 6, alleging that a nurse was unable to vote because she was marked as having voted already, and also claiming that the Massachusetts Nurses Association distributed material to St. Luke's nurses that misrepresented the amount of support for a union.

A hearing officer for the NLRB recommended a dismissal of the objections by Southcoast Health earlier this month. The allegation of voter fraud amounted to a simple mistake, according to emergency room nurse Debra Falk, where a nurse's name was accidentally crossed off of the list before she had a chance to vote.

In the letter issued by Hovan on Wednesday, he says the decision to dismiss the objections will be challenged before the NLRB in Washington, D.C.

Hovan cited concerns expressed by St. Luke's nurses who were "distressed by the Hearing Officer's recommendation" as the reason for the continued fight against the union vote.

"We feel strongly that all St. Luke's nurses have a right to have their voices fairly and equally heard — including the 283 nurses who voted against union representation," Hovan wrote.

In the November 29 election, nurses at St. Luke's Hospital voted to join the Massachusetts Nurses Association by a majority of 350 to 283.

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