"We could not be more proud of the unity, the perseverance, and the patient advocacy and dedication of the Mission RNs to their patients, their colleagues, and their community," Bonnie Castillo, a registered nurse and executive director National Nurses United, said in a statement Thursday. "At a time when nurses are in a daily battle with the deadly fight for their patients and their own lives in the era of Covid-19, they have demonstrated incomparable courage and resilience that is an inspiration to all of us."
BREAKING: In one of the biggest unionization victories in the South in decades, nurses at HCA’s Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C., vote overwhelmingly to unionize .— Steven Greenhouse (@greenhousenyt) September 17, 2020
By 965 to 411, the nurses vote to join National Nurses United.https://t.co/D4D1CK46Aw
The nurses voted by 965 to 411—a 70 percent landslide—to join the National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC)/National Nurses United (NNU), in a secret, mail-in ballot election conducted and counted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The vote count was completed early Thursday morning, and the pro-union votes prevailed, NNU wrote in a statement, despite a "heavily funded anti-union campaign by the hospital owner, HCA, the largest hospital system in the United States, and arguably the most politically and economically influential giant in the hospital industry."
According to reporting from the Citizen Times:
Mission Health operates six hospitals and numerous out-patient clinics across Western North Carolina. Mission Hospital, in Asheville, is its flagship facility. Mission will be NNU’s first union in North Carolina and its largest at any HCA-affiliated hospital.
Mission opposed the union effort, saying it would would interfere with supervisor and staff communications and ultimately hurt the hospital’s quality of care. In its annual public financial statement, HCA stated more unionization could cause its labor costs to "increase materially."
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Sue Fischer, a pro-union float pool registered nurse at the facility, countered the hospital's claim, describing in a statement how HCA, after acquiring Mission Health last spring, has cut corners at the rural, acute care facility.
"We started to see dramatic decreases in the amount of staff and resources we had across the hospital," Fischer said. "The nurse-to-patient ratios started to get much worse, equipment was replaced with cheaper versions, and certified nurse assistants, housekeepers, security, and phlebotomists, along with many other staff were let go in unprecedented levels."
In a press release Thursday, NNU noted, quoting a pediatric ICU nurse at the hospital, HCA told the nurses that "nothing would change for at least a year and a half."
NNOC will now represent 1,800 RNs at Mission. Overall, NNU, the largest U.S. union of RNs, represents more than 155,000 RNs.
How's this for an indicator of changing attitudes towards unions North Carolina has the 2nd lowest union membership rate in the country, and nurses at the largest hospital system in WNC just voted to join @NationalNurses. #workerpowerhttps://t.co/A2G5uZrtQZ— Jess Kutch (@jess_kutch) September 17, 2020
"Our families, friends, and fellow citizens rely on the care we provide here," Hannah Drummond, a trauma care unit registered nurse, said in a statement. "Their overwhelming love and support remind me of why we're doing this. They gave us strength. I'm so grateful this victory will allow us to be better advocates for our community."