Published May 6, 2002
Huge Win for Apple Valley RNs and Patients
St. Mary Nurses Choose California Nurses Association
Heavy-handed campaign of intimidation, harassment rejected
Registered Nurses at St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley voted 185 to 127 Thursday night to join the California Nurses Association (CNA) in what nurses called a huge win for patients and the High Desert community as well as for nurses.
The sweeping 59 percent margin was especially impressive in the face of an intensive campaign of intimidation and harassment by the hospital and its anti-union consulting firm, the Burke Group, which pressured nurses to vote against representation. CNA estimates that the hospital paid the Burke Group at least $1.3 million for its losing effort.
CNA Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro praised the St. Mary RNs for "their enormous courage and their dedication to their patients in overcoming a brutal campaign to win the right to advocate collectively for their patients, their community, and themselves."
St. Mary becomes the third hospital in the St. Joseph Health System this year to vote for CNA representation. Registered Nurses at the two St. Joseph's hospitals in Eureka overwhelmingly voted for CNA in March, despite some $1.2 million those hospitals paid to the Burke Group.
"A fire is raging in the St. Joseph system," said DeMoro. "The nurses want representation, and they will not be denied." She called on the Orange, Ca.-based hospital chain to "stop wasting precious health care dollars on the Burke Group and work with CNA and its RNs to improve the quality of care for St. Joseph patients and nurses."
For CNA, the fastest growing nurses' union in the U.S., the St. Mary election continues a record run. The St. Mary's vote marks the 14th hospital election win for CNA in just over a year.
St. Mary RNs were ecstatic with the election win. "I am very proud of the nurses at St. Mary and this hard fought victory with CNA," said Diane Bemboon, RN, an intensive care unit nurse.
"We conducted our campaign in a professional manner and look forward to building a mutually respectful relationship with our administration," said Bemboon. "My experience at San Bernardino Community Hospital, a recently organized CNA facility where we won an excellent contract for the RNs, serves as a good model."
"We needed this victory for our patients and for our profession," said Beth Coronel, RN, BSN, a nurse in the cardiac unit. "We are looking for a change from a time when the opinions and suggestions of RNs were ignored to now once and for all having our voices heard with CNA representation. By joining the California Nurses Association, an organization of professional bedside nurses, we hope to guarantee safe nurse-to-patient ratios."
"We now look ahead to a contract with St. Mary's which will protect our voices as patient advocates," said Staci Brady, RN, a nurse in the critical care unit. "We look forward to working with St. Mary's administration for the future of our hospital."
The National Labor Relations Board supervised the secret ballot election. CNA, which represents 44,000 RNs in over 150 facilities across California, said the nurses would move quickly to begin work on negotiating their first ever collective bargaining agreement.
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