St. Peter’s Health fires consultant and charges him with labor law violations

HELENA — St. Peter’s Health has fired Niles Comer, an out-of-state consultant accused of labor charges.

On September 1st, registered nurses at St. Peter’s Health filed to hold an election and vote to join the current Professional Nurses Union. After they were filled, St. Peter’s hired Comer.

Comer is anti-union and has been accused of trying to dissuade RNs from pursuing unionization efforts and failing to file required reports with the U.S. Department of Labor.

St. Peter’s Health denied in a statement last week that any violations had occurred.

In response to the hospital’s hiring of Comer, nurses started a petition asking St. Peter’s to “invest in nurses, not consultants,” according to a press release from the Montana Nursing Association.

In less than a week, more than 900 people have signed a petition in support of St. Peter’s nurses, and the number continues to grow.

The Montana Nursing Association said the petition points to widespread community support for nurses.

“Last we checked, we had over 1,000 signatures on the petition,” said Vicki Byrd, CEO of the Montana Nursing Association. “It just goes to show that these nurses who are going through this are supported by so many people across the state of Montana.”

MNA is the recognized representative for professional nursing in Montana and represents more than 3,000 nurses.

“The nurses saw all the support that was coming their way and it really boosted their morale as well. So it’s uplifting and they feel like what they’re doing every day is really appreciated. It allows us to know that we’re there,” Bird said.

Earlier this week, the Daily Montanan reported that a document purportedly compiled by Comer containing nurses’ personal information and work details was leaked.

St. Peter’s Health confirmed the document leak in a statement to MTN and said it had parted ways with the consultant.

“Last week, we learned of an incident in which documents containing confidential information were made accessible beyond their intended recipients. It is our responsibility to protect the privacy and health of our employees. As such, we take full responsibility for the occurrence of this incident. We can confirm that we are no longer working with any third party consultants, but the more important issue is that this incident does not reflect our values. We are currently conducting an internal investigation and will take appropriate action based on the results.”

The MNA said unionization efforts are still underway and a vote is scheduled for Oct. 17.

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