Nurses in Connecticut Vote for AFT Representation

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After several months of organizing and fending off the efforts of one of the oldest and largest union-busting firms in the country, the nurses at William H. Backus Hospital in Norwich have voted to join AFT Connecticut.

The effort to organize more than 400 registered nurses at Backus began in the winter and culminated in an election victory on May 11. The nurses decided to organize because of short staffing and other cost-cutting measures imposed by the hospital.

"Ultimately it's about the patients," Angela Shirey, a nurse in the maternity ward, told The Day newspaper. "We want our staffing to be up. We don't feel the administration is supporting us in that way."

Nurse Katherine Palmer told the newspaper that her decision boiled down to the fact that "management has taken so much away from us in the last year. They've cut our benefits, our vacation time and our staffing. It's stressful to be at work when we're as busy as we are."

"Having a contract will give us a voice in the hospital so that we can be stronger advocates for our patients," says Lisa Currier, a nurse who works in the operating room. "That's why I voted in favor of a union."

The nurses join with nine other nursing locals represented by AFT Connecticut, the state's largest representative of acute care hospital workers. They now begin the process of electing local leaders and negotiating a contract.

"We welcome the nurses from Backus and know that they will lend their voices to strengthening patient care at their hospital and at the state Capitol," says AFT Connecticut president Sharon Palmer.

"We are very happy with the results [of the election]," says John Brady, an emergency department nurse. "We will be speaking with every nurse as we begin contract negotiations with the hospital."

"We are ready to begin working with management to turn Backus Hospital back into a community hospital that focuses on patients first," adds Dee Arndt, a labor and delivery nurse. [AFT Connecticut, The Day]

May 12, 2011