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Asheville nurses’ rally draws local leaders
Wednesday, 01 April 2020 11:57

Petition filed, nurses’ union election coming to Mission Hospital


From Staff Reports 

A rally for nurses wanting to join a union at Asheville-based Mission Hospital drew “more than 100 people” including a number of elected local leaders to downtown Asheville on March 8 afternoon, according to Asheville television station WLOS (News 13).

Among the officials attending and standing with the nurses were Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer, Buncombe County Commissioners’ Chairman Brownie Newman, Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara and City Councilwoman Julie Mayfield. 

Meanwhile, website reported a much higher attendance figure on March 8 as follows:

“About 300 people paraded from the Buncombe County government administration office building on College Street to Pack Square Park, with some holding signs and others chanting ‘What do we want? Union! When do we want it? Now!’ and ‘Hey-hey! Ho-ho! Union busting’s got to go!’ Other’s held signs that read ‘Support our RN community’ and ‘WNC Central Labor Council Supports Mission Nurses.’

On March 6, Mission officials confirmed that National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United, a national union for Registered Nurses, filed a petition to represent nurses at Mission Hospital. The labor group represents more than 150,000 workers nationwide, making it the largest union of registered nurses in U.S. history, the organization’s website stated.

“Now it is our turn to stand with you and care for you,” said Beach-Ferrara, according to News 13.

Newman said the rally was organized the day before and based on the turnout, he thinks it’s an indication of how widespread community support reaches, the TV station reported.

“We hear a lot from our constituents about how encouraged they are that nurses are working to form a union at Mission because I believe they feel like having the nurses organized at Mission will help make the hospital a better hospital for everyone in Western North Carolina,” News 13 quoted Newman as saying.

Manheimer and Newman released a joint statement on March 7, calling nurses the “back-bone” that provide (health) care in the community.

The joint Manheimer-Newman statement, was headlined “We stand with you.”

News 13’s March 18 report noted, “For the past several weeks people including nurses have brought up concerns with the HCA takeover at public meetings.

“Nurses at the rally said they’ve been working on the move to organize for a year now. They said they want their voices heard.”

News 13 quoted Kelley Tyler, a nurse, as saying, “The union will give us a voice in our patient care and be able to be strong advocates at the bedside which we desire drastically.”

Tyler also told News 13 that HCA did not follow through with its promise to the nurses.

“As nurses we were promised with the HCA buyout that we would not see any changes at the bedside for at least a year and most of that changes would be at the upper management level,” she told News 13, “Around June, the change was removing our secretaries which drastically impacted our ability to care for our patients as they are the backbone of each unit and really foster the communication that we so much need everyday.”

Following is the text of a statement that Mission Hospital officials sent to News 13:

“This past year has brought a great deal of change at Mission Hospital, including the many steps we have been taking over that time to improve how we support our staff in providing patient care. We have sent our colleagues the attached letter from Chad Patrick, Chief Executive Office, Mission Hospital.

“Mission Health sent a letter to staff on Sunday, (March 8) saying, in-part, that they feel discouraged some nurses would want a third party to speak for them but that they understand.

“Read the letter from Chad Patrick, Chief Executive Office of Mission Hospital sent to colleagues on March 8, 2020, in full, below:

“On Friday afternoon, we learned that National Nurses United filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for an election to unionize our Registered Nurses at Mission Hospital. Because this issue will fundamentally impact our hospital, our community, and all of our team members, I wanted you to hear from me personally.

“We respect the right of every nurse to make their own decision regarding whether or not union representation is right for them. They will have that opportunity in the secret ballot vote that will be scheduled within the next few weeks.

“I was discouraged when I first learned that some of our nurses felt the need for a third party to speak for them in the workplace. But I understand. This past year has brought a great deal of change at Mission Hospital. In prior communications, I’ve shared the steps we are taking to improve how we support you in providing patient care. But it is clear that we have more to do to explain our vision and the path we are taking to get there. While we cannot rewrite history, I am confident that we can, and will, do better.

“Simply put, we don’t believe union representation is right for nurses at Mission Hospital. I say that not out of disrespect to nurses who support the union, but out of my firm belief that unions can be divisive and undermine the very relationships that strengthen our patient care teams.

“As you may know, I previously worked at HCA Healthcare affiliated hospitals in Florida. It has been mentioned that some of those hospitals are unionized. That’s true. But what the union may not have told you is that those elections were different than this one. In those elections, the hospitals could not share factual information regarding unions. I strongly believe that if our team members in Florida had the benefit of hearing all of the facts, they would have made different decisions and would have voted “No.”

“Our nurses have the opportunity to be fully informed on this critical issue. So I urge each of you to carefully examine what union representation would actually mean for our nurses, their families, our hospital, and our patients. We’ll be sharing facts about unions and resources you can explore to learn more on your own.

“What comes next? The NLRB will schedule a secret ballot election and it will count the ballots after the vote. Every vote is extremely important. The union will represent our Mission Hospital nurses with just a simple majority of those nurses who turn out to vote – 50 percent plus one. If only 100 nurses vote, those 100 nurses will determine the outcome for every nurse at Mission Hospital, so every nurse’s voice is critically important. The choice each nurse makes in this secret ballot election is theirs alone.

“I hope and trust our dedicated nurses make a well-informed decision and urge everyone one of them to vote when the time comes. I greatly appreciate your passionate dedication to Mission Hospital and the care we provide in our community.”

Meanwhile, the Asheville Citizen Times noted in a March 14 story, stated, “A union election is coming to Mission Hospital, and all sides – nurses, management, and union representatives included — will want their views on unionizing known before ballots are cast.”

The ACT also noted that the nurses at Mission’s submittal of union authorization cards on March 6 to the regional National Labor Relations Board, calling it “a move that precipitates a secret union election. If more than half of nurses who participate in the election vote in favor, the National Nurses United union will represent 1,500 Mission nurses.”

The newspaper further stated, “In 2019, 70 percent of elections to unionize ended in favor of organizing, according to the NLRB. In each of the past four years, 23 days separated the petition from the election, a campaign window for stakeholders to advocate for or against unionization.”


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