Montana Nurses Association Affiliates With the AFT; Reaches Tentative Pact with Bozeman Deaconess Hospital
WASHINGTON—The Montana Nurses Association has approved a historic affiliation agreement with the AFT, the largest union of professionals in the AFL-CIO. The action comes after the boards of both the National Federation of Nurses and the Washington State Nurses Association agreed to affiliate with the AFT earlier this month.
The MNA also announced a tentative two-year agreement for nurses working at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital. The 240-member bargaining unit has been working without a contract since December.
"This historic partnership means that Montana's nurses now have the strength and support of 1.5 million AFT members who devote their lives to making a difference every day for the patients and students they serve, and for the communities in which they work," said AFT President Randi Weingarten. "Strengthening the voice of nurses in Montana strengthens the care nurses are able to provide for their patients. It ensures that they are able to win the respect and dignity their life-saving work entitles them to. I am thrilled to welcome these nurses into our union."
MNA Executive Director Lori Chovanak said affiliation with the AFT will enhance the ability of nurses belonging to her 2,175-member union to advocate on behalf of their patients.
"We believe this partnership with the AFT will amplify the voice and power of Montana nurses to advocate for quality care for our patients, uphold high standards for our profession, and improve working conditions for nurses," Chovanak said. "Now when we advocate for our patients in our Statehouse or on Capitol Hill, we'll have the legislative and regulatory reach of the largest union of professionals in the AFL-CIO. The ultimate winners are the patients we serve and the Montana communities where we live and work."
Eric Feaver, president of the MEA-MFT and an AFT Vice President, said, "I am absolutely delighted to welcome these folks into AFT. It's great for our state and for the union movement in Montana."
With the new tentative agreement at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital, MNA is able to correct an inequitable wage scale that sometimes resulted in new hires being paid more than current employees who had the same experience and education. Nurses also had complained about workplace harassment and intimidation by management, which impeded their ability to care for patients.
The new two-year pact was reached after hundreds of nurses, community members, patients and allies from other unions picketed in front of the hospital Tuesday to call attention to the lack of progress in negotiations.
"Now the nurses at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital have a contract that respects their work as professionals and helps them provide the highest quality care for their patients," said Weingarten. "Nurses are the frontline care providers in hospitals like Bozeman Deaconess, and their experience and expertise need to be valued."
The 34,000-member National Federation of Nurses voted Feb. 7 to affiliate with the AFT, whose 1.5 million members include 48,000 nurses. The NFN is active in Montana, Ohio, Oregon and Washington state. The executive board of the 11,577-member Washington State Nurses Association voted Feb. 16 to affiliate with the AFT. Over the next several weeks, state affiliates in Ohio and Oregon will conduct their own formal ratification process.
"The affiliations with the AFT come at a time when nurses are uniting their voices to deal with rapid changes in the healthcare industry and the effective implementation of the Affordable Care Act," Weingarten said. "These affiliations represent a vote of confidence in the AFT as a union with a proven track record of standing up for professionals."