ST. ALBANS – Registered nurses at Northwestern Medical Center (NMC) voted overwhelmingly against the formation of a union during an election held Wednesday at the St. Albans hospital.
In a vote that, according to NMC’s Vice President of Planning and Community Relations Jonathan Billings, saw a 95 percent turnout from the hospital’s nursing staff, 57 nurses voted in favor of the formation of a union while 101 nurses voted against unionization.
Another eight ballots were considered “challenged,” meaning the individual who submitted one of those ballots may not have been eligible to.
“We have definitely heard all of our nurses’ voices through this process,” Billings said after the vote. “This represents a new day for [NMC] moving forward in that we need to make sure we are hearing all of our staff, and that our staff do indeed have a voice – and recognize they have a voice – in our efforts to provide exceptional care.”
Proponents of an NMC nursing union have been critical of unfavorable staffing ratios and scheduling at NMC, something the nurses say has negatively impacted the hospital’s ability to retain a nursing staff and care for patients.
They have also accused the hospital of changing positive policies overnight without consulting nurses.
Opponents, meanwhile, say that the nurses have always had a clear line of communication with the managers and have warned against adding another party – an organized union – to conversations between nursing staff and NMC’s leadership.
According to proponents of unionization, the formation of a union had nothing to do with wages.
Despite the election’s outcome, proponents of the union feel as though their efforts were somewhat rewarded.
“Obviously we were defeated, but I don’t really feel like we lost,” NMC nurse Kasey Thompson-Lovell said. “The administration’s eyes are wide open now and they know that changes need to be made.”
NMC has reportedly sought to address some of these concerns before elections were announced, though Billings said elections will likely result in the hospital accelerating those efforts in response to some of the criticisms levied during the union elections.
“A lot of these have been ongoing efforts that have been in place,” Billings said. “I think there’s a renewed understanding in terms of the need to accelerate some of these efforts and where the points of emphasis are.”
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