Over 1,000 nurses at Mission Hospital in Asheville voted to unionize after a months long battle with HCA – the healthcare giant who bought out Mission Health Systems. The vote will allow Mission Hospital nurses to join National Nurses United, the largest RN Union in the nation.
The nurses voted by 965 to 411 to join the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United, in a secret, mail-in ballot election conducted and counted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The vote count was completed and announced early Thursday morning by the National Labor Relations Board.
Nancy Lindell, with HCA’s Public Relations and Media, noted that the process in which the vote was conducted will be closely reviewed and evaluated.
“We are grateful for our nursing team and their dedication to quality patient care throughout this challenging time for our nation and world,” said Nancy Lindell. “As divisive as this election has been over the last few months, we respect the right of nurses to decide for themselves whether or not they supported NNU.
In the coming days, the hospital will thoroughly examine the election process and the manner in which the election was conducted. The NLRB’s process allows both parties time to review the election and the conduct of the parties prior to the election; the hospital may utilize that process to ensure that all of our nurses had the fair election that they deserve. We value our nurses and the exceptional care they provide. We will continue to focus on our mission to care for the communities of Western North Carolina.”
Mission Hospital made history as being the first private sector hospital union election win in North Carolina. Prior to today’s vote, Mission Hospital was the nonunion hospital in the South since 1975 when Labor Unions began to become the norm.
“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,” said NNU and NNOC Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN. “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.”
RNs at Mission Hospital began their push or representation in February 2019, shortly after HCA’s took over the health system. The takeover was followed by stories of rapid decline in patient care conditions at the hospital, a decrease in staffing levels, and other issues as noted by nurses and community residents.
“Only a few months into the HCA buyout, we started to see dramatic decreases in the amount of staff and resources we had across the hospital,” said Fischer. “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.”
Shortly before the COVID19 pandemic impacted the world, nurses at Mission Hospital filed their petition with the NLRB for a union election. Six months of waiting, and campaign for and against the vote between nurses and HCA followed. Votes were sent to the Labor Board and tallied on September 18.
“We’re all thrilled that we’ve finally won,” said Lesley Bruce, RN, who works in chest pain observation at Mission. “This victory means we can use our collective voice to advocate for patient safety and safer staffing. I can’t wait to see what improvement we’ll win together.”
“Throughout the entire campaign, we’ve been acutely aware that this fight isn’t just for us and our working conditions–this is about the health and well-being of our community,” said Kelly Graham, palliative care RN. “We have been blessed with so much support from our Asheville neighbors, who understand that our working conditions have an enormous impact on public health.”
Now that the majority has elected to unionize, nurses at Mission Hospital will now elect a team to represent them in contract negotiations with HCA management for the first union contract in their history.
“This victory is just the beginning,” said Alex Kimbro, a recovery room RN at Mission. “We are looking forward to bargaining for a fair contract to improve patient safety, as well as competitive wages to keep Asheville nurses working here in our community. We are more than ready to win the next chapter too.”