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A healthcare worker holds a sign as she participates in a national day of action on August 5, 2020 in New York City. (Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Landslide Vote by Nurses in North Carolina Delivers Biggest Hospital Unionization Win in US South in 45 Years

"I'm so grateful this victory will allow us to be better advocates for our community," one nurse said.

Lisa Newcomb

In what advocates are calling the biggest union victory at a hospital in the American South since 1975, nurses at Mission Hospital in North Carolina overwhelmingly voted to unionize Thursday.

"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."

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." 

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. 

"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."

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