A Smack on the Chin or a Nibble? Content Analysis of the Impact of the Oakwood Trilogy

Source: Tyler Gibb, Michigan State University Journal of Medicine and Law, November 5, 2009

From the abstract:
On September 29, 2006 the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a trio of important decisions. These decisions, called the Oakwood Trilogy, represented the latest attempt by the NLRB to clearly define what it means to be a supervisor under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Supervisors are outside the protection of the NLRA and are unable to unionize or participate in collective bargaining units. The Oakwood trilogy was widely criticized by labor and management advocates. Some critics foresaw dire consequences resulting from these decisions. However, management advocates praised the trilogy. One author declared that it had saved the NLRA.

More than three years after the Oakwood trilogy was published, there is still uncertainty regarding what its impact has actually been. This article uses content analysis, a novel methodology in legal scholarship, to show how the trilogy is actually being applied. This analysis yields a clear picture of the quantifiable impact of the trilogy.

Oakwood was a dispute regarding the supervisor status of nurses within a hospital. The impact of the trilogy in the healthcare industry is very important. By understanding how the NLRB is applying the Oakwood trilogy in the healthcare setting, employers may be able to use job descriptions and job responsibilities to exclude large numbers of nurses from collective bargaining units. On the other hand, nursing unionization efforts may also use the information to shield their members from exclusion under the trilogy.

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