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Mercy Hospital has been found to have wrongfully interfered with the rights of its nurses to attempt to form a union in a decision by a National Labor Relations Board hearing officer made public Tuesday.

The hospital said it will appeal the decision to the NLRB's Washington headquarters.

Hearing officer Paul J. Murphy ruled that the hospital violated federal regulations when it prohibited the nurses from wearing union buttons and prevented them from distributing pro-union handbills in the basement of the hospital during their non-work hours.

The violations allegedly occurred during an organizing campaign by the Communication Workers of America.

An NLRB-supervised election involving 374 full- and part-time registered nurses was contested. In the election, held Jan. 18, the nurses voted 178 to 172 against being represented by the union in ballots counted, but seven ballots were challenged.

Murphy's findings, if upheld, would open the way for the union to force a new election.

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