The nurses at Rockville (Conn.) General Hospital have voted to form a union. On Dec. 16, they voted to be represented by AFT Connecticut, just months after an earlier election was overturned by the National Labor Relations Board because of unfair labor practices. The union lost that earlier election by one vote.
"Rockville Hospital has always been seen as a community hospital," says Lynn DeYoung, a per diem RN in the medical/surgical unit. "With all the nurses joining together, we will be able to make sure it stays that way."
Last May, the nurses at Rockville narrowly lost the first representation election. AFT Connecticut filed an objection with the NLRB in Hartford, which found that a new election should be held. The labor board in Washington, D.C., denied an appeal by the Eastern Connecticut Health Network (ECHN), the hospital system that runs Rockville, and ordered a second election.
"In the first election, nurses were afraid to talk about changes that need to be made at the hospital," says Sharon Thompson, an RN in the maternity unit. "This time, nurses were ready to sit down with management and make decisions as a group, together." She adds that the union wants to work with the hospital to help reduce costs. "As the front line, we know places where we could save the hospital money without cutting patient care staff or hours and putting patients at risk. Our union will give us the power to improve care for our patients and improve working conditions for our nurses."
"Part of having a union is the ability to negotiate over changes that directly impact their working conditions," says AFT Connecticut president Sharon Palmer. "The power to have a voice in the workplace is exactly why the nurses at Rockville General Hospital voted 'union yes.'"
AFT Connecticut has represented the nurses at Manchester Memorial Hospital, which is also run by ECHN, for 40 years. "We've seen how well the nurses at Manchester work together with management," says Rockville nurse Meagan Mansfield. "We're ready to stand together with the nurses at Manchester and make all of ECHN better for our patients and our community."
AFT Connecticut will seek to begin negotiations with ECHN immediately and will be fighting to include all of the hospital's 140 nurses in the bargaining unit. Several of them were excluded from the election because of a technicality that classifies some of their work as managerial.
AFT Connecticut is the largest representative of acute care hospital workers in Connecticut, and also represents the nurses at Manchester Memorial Hospital, Johnson Memorial Hospital and Windham Community Memorial Hospital. [AFT Connecticut]
December 17, 2009
UPDATE: First contract unanimously signed with ECHN on December 17, 2010. (See story.)