Denver Va Nurses Await Union-vote Outcome

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    Denver Post, July 10, 2002


    VA nurses await union-vote outcome
    By Marsha Austin
    Denver Post Business Writer
    http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,...3%257E,00.html


    Wednesday, July 10, 2002 - Nurses at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Denver find out today if they have become the city's first hospitalwide group of registered nurses to unionize in 20 years.

    Mail-in ballots from 276 RNs at the hospital, adjacent to the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center at East Ninth Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, will be counted this afternoon. The nurses voted for three options: Unionize under United American Nurses, the labor arm of the American Nurses Association; join the American Federation of Government Employees, which already represents other VA Medical Center workers; or have no union representation.

    If any of the three fails to win a majority of votes, there will be a run-off election for the two most popular choices.

    Deanna Jones, a 40-year veteran of nursing and a 16-year employee of Denver's VA Medical Center, predicts a landslide victory for United American Nurses.

    "Most everybody - 95 percent of all the nurses I've talked to - want a professional union. They want the RN union," she said.

    The nurses are fed up with being left out of decisions regarding patient care, salaries and work conditions, Jones said.

    "The time has come when nurses are tired of being put down," she said. "It's just getting rough. We're working short-staffed. The patient suffers. We suffer. The burnout rate is at an all time high."

    While the VA nurses cannot negotiate wages because they are part of a federal pay scale set by Congress, Jones said she wants to challenge a rule that keeps nurses who do not have master's degrees from getting pay raises.

    The nurses also are concerned about staffing levels and, above all, just want to feel like their voice counts, Jones said.

    The VA Medical Center's administration is not taking sides, said Randall Emeterio, hospital spokesman.

    "We're not going to try to sway the vote one way or the other," Emeterio said. "We're encouraging everybody to vote, and we'll see how it turns out."

    The United American Nurses represents nurses at 22 other VA medical centers nationwide. The organization emerged in Denver a little over a year ago via Ron Harleman, a former organizer for the Colorado Teachers Union and the UAN's one-man show in Colorado.

    Harleman has yet to unionize any hospitals but has gained unprecedented support from Colorado's professional nurse association. Until a year ago, Colorado Nurses Association leadership would not comment on labor unions.

    Now, its president actively supports the VA nurses, and the association's website has a section dedicated to labor organizing.

    "We definitely are supportive of nurses to have the right to vote and unionize," said Paula Stearns, president of the Colorado Nurses Association. "They really feel like they want more of a voice, and a union could help them be a part of decision-making."

    Unlike in other jurisdictions, such as California, which have extremely active and vocal nurse labor unions, nurses in Denver have not sought union support in negotiating workplace issues such as pay, scheduling and patient safety.

    Of metro Denver's 14 hospitals, only one - Exempla St. Joseph Hospital near downtown Denver - employs union nurses. That's because the hospital is the city's main facility for Kaiser Permanente, a managed care organization that hires its own nurses and health care workers and which was unionized in Denver in 1972.

    About 60 St. Joseph emergency room nurses who were not Kaiser employees voted to unionize under the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 a year ago.

    But the workers dissolved the union relationship in February after UFCW failed to reach a contract agreement with hospital administrators.
  2. 3 Comments so far...

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    denver va center nurses vote to unionize
    nurses at denver's veterans administration medical center voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining the united american nurses. they became the first hospitalwide group of nurses to join a union in denver history.

    denver post, july 11, 2002

    http://www.denverpost.com/stories/0,...6%257e,00.html

    greater voice in decision-making sought
    by marsha austin
    denver post business writer

    thursday, july 11, 2002 - veterans administration medical center nurses voted overwhelmingly on wednesday in favor of union representation, becoming the first hospitalwide group of denver nurses to join a labor organization in the city's history.
    the nurses chose united american nurses, the labor arm of the american nurses association, by a 58 percent margin. the rest of the nurses' votes were split between those who preferred the american federation of government employees and those who did not want to join a union. about 177 of the medical center's 276 registered nurses mailed in ballots.

    "this is for the future," said deanna jones, a 40-year veteran of nursing and a 16-year employee of the va medical center in denver. "with the nursing shortage looming over those of us who are so old, if we can get the support we deserve and nurses are respected, we have done our job."

    va nurses joined the union to gain a stronger voice in decision-making at the hospital, said jones.

    "we aren't really respected by decision-makers," she said. "without nurses, they wouldn't have a hospital."

    no hospital in denver has ever had 100 percent of its nurses join a union.

    kaiser permanente nurses organized in 1972. some of them work at exempla st. joseph hospital but are not employees of the hospital. more than half of st. joseph's nurses are nonunion exempla employees.

    "i am hoping that this will be a spur to some other nurses in the city who were waiting to see what happened," said ron harleman, regional director for the united american nurses in denver.

    the va nurses will immediately begin preparing for contract negotiations with hospital administrators. the nurses do not have much leeway in negotiating pay raises because their pay scale is set by congress. but jones said the nurses will try to change a rule that does not allow nurses without a master's degree to advance to higher pay grades.

    va nurses also want to be more involved in hospital decisions that affect patient care, such as decisions about staffing.

    the united american nurses represents more than 100,000 registered nurses nationwide and approximately 6,000 nurses at va medical centers.

    jones said she and her co-workers chose the uan because it is a professional union that is part of nurses' national trade association, the american nurses association, and only represents nurses.

    the uan has negotiated benefits and pay increases for nurses across the country. some examples:

    overtime is paid at time and a half for minnesota nurses who work longer hours than regularly scheduled, and double time for more than 12 hours.

    in michigan, barrage county memorial hospital full-time nurses and their families have full, employer-paid health and dental coverage.

    the washington state nurses association has negotiated contracts that pay home health nurses time and a half on-call when called in to work. washington state nurses also negotiated no mandatory overtime, no required overtime to any nurses floated out of their regular units, and no required overtime when a nurse comes in to work on a scheduled day off.

    mandatory overtime regardless of shift length is paid at double time in an oregon contract.

    in ohio, nurses at lima memorial hospital have a contract that prohibits mandatory overtime.

    washington hospital center nurses in the district of columbia are negotiating base pay for staff rns. salaries range from the low $40,000s to the low $80,000s, plus up to 25 percent in shift differentials.
  4. 0
    <<"Most everybody - 95 percent of all the nurses I've talked to - want a professional union. They want the RN union," she said.
    The nurses are fed up with being left out of decisions regarding patient care, salaries and work conditions, Jones said.
    "The time has come when nurses are tired of being put down," she said. "It's just getting rough. We're working short-staffed. The patient suffers. We suffer. The burnout rate is at an all time high." The nurses also are concerned about staffing levels and, above all, just want to feel like their voice counts, Jones said.
    .....has unprecedented support from Colorado's professional nurse association. Until a year ago, Colorado Nurses Association leadership would not comment on labor unions.
    Now, its president actively supports the VA nurses, and the association's website has a section dedicated to labor organizing.
    "We definitely are supportive of nurses to have the right to vote and unionize," said Paula Stearns, president of the Colorado Nurses Association. "They really feel like they want more of a voice, and a union could help them be a part of decision-making." >>


    The Colorado Nurses Association is also a member of the national RN union - the United American Nurses. The winds of change are blowing in the Right-To-Work states. Congrats to the Denver RNs for successfully taking the bull by the horns.
    Last edit by -jt on Jul 13, '02
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    <<Denver VA Nurses Choose Voice at Work With Nation's Largest RN Union
    Suzanne Martin

    United American Nurses Union Elected by RNs at Denver VA Medical Center

    Denver -- July 11, 2002 -- The 276 registered nurses at the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) yesterday elected the United American Nurses, AFL-CIO, the labor arm of the American Nurses Association, as their collective bargaining representative. The UAN represents nearly 6,000 RNs in the VA system.

    "Our nurses have gone for too long without a real say in important management decisions that affect us," said Deanna Jones, RN, a psychiatric nurse at the facility. "We chose UAN because our nurses want a professional union made up of staff nurses like us, who understand the unique nursing issues we deal with every day."

    Nurses at the Denver VAMC voted for union representation to address their concerns, including:

    * Job and benefits security in a facility that has gone from approximately 300 beds to 200 beds in the past ten years

    * A voice in hospital decision-making on key issues like the closing of beds and "floating," a practice of sending nurses from one unit to another, sometimes with short notice and inadequate training

    * Staffing levels that are unsafe for patients and for nurses - and that nurses could not control.

    "We welcome the Denver VAMC nurses to the UAN, and we look forward to working alongside them to fight for the improved working conditions they and all nurses deserve," said UAN President/Chair Cheryl Johnson, RN. "We are in the midst of a nurse staffing shortage that is reaching crisis proportions, and it is time for us all to get down to the business of improving working conditions so VA facilities and other hospitals will be attractive places for nurses to work again."

    "Joining the UAN is a wonderful opportunity for the Denver VA nurses to improve their own workplaces and provide quality patient care," said Paula Stearns, RN, executive director of the Colorado Nurses Association (CNA). CNA is a constituent member of the UAN. "We at Colorado NA stand behind these nurses as they organize with the UAN.">>>>>>>

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    Last edit by -jt on Jul 16, '02


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