Ohio State Respiratory Therapists Vote ‘Union Yes’ in 50th AFT Victory This Year as Hot Labor Summer Continues
COLUMBUS, Ohio—Respiratory therapists at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have voted overwhelmingly to unionize, 101 to 19, joining with the Ohio Nurses Association and the American Federation of Teachers to fight for the pay and conditions they deserve.
The win brings the number of new AFT organizing victories this year to 50, a record for the union, totaling more than 8,000 workers. The AFT’s national membership now stands at a record high of 1,719,060, up from 1,688,886 in June 2022. Workers want to join unions because of the voice it gives them, and the AFT has invested heavily in organizing. Despite never-ending extremist political attacks, it is our organizing efforts, not the attacks, gaining traction.
The OSU therapists cited lack of a voice and respect in their fight to organize and to improve their work lives and boost the quality of patient care. The new unit will now move to bargain a first contract with the hospital administration, following certification from the State Employment Relations Board.
“I am so excited for all respiratory therapists at OSU. We worked long and hard to get our union. With our union we are looking forward to creating positive changes, improving working conditions, and ensuring our contributions to healthcare are valued and respected,” said Julie Barnes, a respiratory therapist.
The therapists join 3,800 registered nurse colleagues represented by the ONA at Wexner, a full-service teaching hospital located on the university campus. The ONA is affiliated nationally with the AFT, which represents more than 200,000 healthcare workers across the country.
"The decision by the respiratory therapists to unionize will give us a collective voice loud enough to be heard and have a positive effect for the patients we care for, respiratory therapists and OSUMC,” said respiratory therapist Jedd Steen.
“Unions make possible what would be impossible alone, but it takes organizing—and grit—to turn words into action,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Workers want unions—and the more workers who are organized, the more families have access to the middle class. That’s why it is such a hot labor summer.
“These workers, and the 49 other new units that organized with the AFT so far this year, are standing with 1.72 million members of our union to create an America that delivers dignity and justice for the people who care for others. We will never stop fighting for their rights and for every worker’s right to organize for a better life for themselves and their families.
“I am so proud of the respiratory therapists who, when faced with an administration determined to silence their voice, decided to join together to help their patients and win the freedom and protections they need and deserve.
“Throughout COVID-19, they risked their own lives to care for patients suffering through severe respiratory disease and distress but were only ever rewarded in platitudes, rather than pay and conditions. A union gives them a seat at the table to finally create a sustainable profession and deal with the stress and burnout that’s fast becoming a five-alarm fire.”
The AFT is the nation’s fastest-growing healthcare union, the second-largest K-12 educator union and the largest higher education union. In February, the union launched “Code Red: Understaffing = Patient Care Crisis,” a $1 million, multipronged, multiyear campaign involving more than 100 affiliates to zero in on the issue of inadequate staffing and hold healthcare corporations and government accountable through education, outreach, advocacy, contract bargaining and legislation.
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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.