Schenectady County

Bellevue nurses vote to unionize

Nurses at the Bellevue Woman’s Center voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to unionize through the New York

Nurses at the Bellevue Woman’s Center voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to unionize through the New York State Nurses Association.

The secret-ballot election was held throughout the day Tuesday at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady. At a results party at the Water’s Edge Lighthouse that evening, it was revealed that 92 nurses at the Niskayuna hospital voted in favor of unionizing and 18 voted against.

“We decided to join NYSNA after management started to make changes to how we care for our patients without consulting us,” said Christine Walthers, one of several registered nurses at Bellevue who has led the effort to unionize. “Nurses and our patients need a voice in health care. NYSNA is that voice.”

Nurses made it clear two months ago that they were ready for union representation. The movement started earlier this year, when Ellis management told Bellevue staff that it was implementing a new model of care known as mother-baby. Under this model, nurses who previously cared for only new mothers or only newborns would have to care for both mothers and newborns after birth.

Nurses were alarmed at this change, with some saying they didn’t have the training to properly care for newborns, especially in emergency situations. But management wouldn’t listen to their concerns, they claimed, and appeared to have no plan to guide them through the change.

In October, Bellevue nurses delivered a petition signed by 105 of Bellevue’s 125 nurses to Ellis CEO Jim Connolly. The same day, they held a speak-out on the sidewalk in front of Ellis Hospital to make their case to the public, and they said management repeatedly ignored their concerns and requests for a meeting.

Once the concerns went public, Ellis management sat down with the nurses and told them they would recognize their membership in NYSNA as long as a secret-ballot election was held to ensure that nurses opposed to unionization weren’t facing intimidation or peer pressure.

NYSNA, the largest association for nurses in the state, has represented Ellis nurses at the Nott Street campus since the 1960s. This will be the first union representation for nurses at the Bellevue hospital, which was established in 1931.

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