NEW YORK NURSE: July/August 2011
by Mark Genovese
Benedictine Hospital RNs took another step toward winning a first contract when they voted resoundingly on June 23 to keep their affiliation with NYSNA.
After originally voting for professional representation in 2008, this election reaffirmed the nurses’ commitment to their profession, their patients, and their community. NYSNA represents 200 RNs, employed by Benedictine Hospital, who work in both Benedictine and Kingston hospitals. The hospitals are a part of the Health Alliance of the Hudson Valley.
“At a time in which labor faces challenges from aggressive employers and politicians in just about every arena, this election was the most welcome of news,” said Lorraine Seidel, director of NYSNA’s Economic and General Welfare program. “Our committed, energetic, and determined members and staff worked so hard, fought the hardest kind of campaign, and prevailed!”
Since the merger of Kingston and Benedictine hospitals, Benedictine nurses have been sent to work at Kingston Hospital, working for lower wages and lesser benefits. Benedictine nurses sought NYSNA’s help to deal with Benedictine’s insufficient staffing, non-competitive salaries, and lack of incentives to retain experienced nurses.
“This election has demonstrated our unity and commitment to our professional affiliation with NYSNA,” said Ann Krom, a member of the negotiating committee. “It shows hospital management that we intend to stay the course. Benedictine nurses deserve respect for the crucial role we play in the healthcare system. So, it’s time they acknowledge us as a legitimate force and work with us.”
The Health Alliance aggressively worked to persuade nurses to vote “NO” for professional representation. This anti-union campaign continued the promise of a hospital official in 2008 to “fight NYSNA’s every effort to inject itself into the Benedictine community.”
Prior to the election, Health Alliance president and CEO David Lundquist started making personal appearances on the hospital’s units for the first time in many months. RNs at Kingston noted that they too received a great deal of personal contact from him leading up to their election in November 2010, but added he hasn’t been back very much since.
NYSNA believes the energy spent fighting the union could have been put to better use – such as by working toward a contract that enhances patient safety by adopting staffing guidelines and creates parity with Kingston Hospital nurses.
Benedictine RNs are going to be very clear with the hospital that we are demanding a first contract. “We are prepared to take any steps necessary to ensure a successful outcome,” said negotiating committee member Sharon Miller. “We will give the hospital a tight timeframe within which it must comply, and rally the many supporters that aided our election to send a clear and decisive message.”