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
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.