Montgomery County

St. Mary’s nurses seeking union representation

About 50 St. Mary’s Hospital nurses gathered outside the facility Wednesday to publicly declare thei

About 50 St. Mary’s Hospital nurses gathered outside the facility Wednesday to publicly declare their desire to form a union and to join the New York State Nurses Association.

Before their news conference, however, some of the nurses went into the hospital to ask management to recognize their union.

According to Tara L. Martin, a New York State Nurses Association spokeswoman at the rally, the nurses handed over a community petition in support of the unionization effort with more than 130 signatures, including nurses from other hospitals, such as Ellis Hospital; a letter with the signature of about 19 doctors at St. Mary’s who support the nurses in their effort; and a formal petition asking for their union to be recognized.

Martin said management refused to recognize the union, so after the news conference, a group of nurses drove to the National Labor Relations Board office in Albany to request a vote among all nurses employed by the hospital.

The goal, according to Martin and the nurses at the rally, is for them to be able to negotiate collectively with the hospital on matters that they feel are important, such as patient-nurse ratio. The nurses feel the number of patients for each nurse has increased to the point of hindering them in providing the best care for each patient.

Dana Opalka, a 26-year nurse at St. Mary’s, said she has worked at the hospital for her entire career, has loved it and doesn’t want to work anywhere else. But she said nurses have taken on more patients and want to be able to negotiate new solutions to provide the best care possible.

“What we’re hoping is to have a voice,” added Stacy Arminio, a nurse at St. Mary’s for 10 years.

Hospital officials in a statement explained that they want an election to determine how many of the registered nurses want a union to represent them.

“We acknowledged the union and addressed their representatives in a respectful manner, but we rejected their request for immediate recognition,” the statement reads.

Hospital said in the statement they would respect the decision of the nurses and understand they have a right to organize, but added they will continue to have an ongoing dialogue to provide the nurses “with factual information to help them make an informed decision.”

In December, nurses at Bellevue Women’s Center in Niskayuna sought to be represented through NYSNA. The nurses said they were alarmed at a new model of care implemented by management and said management hadn’t listened to their concerns about the new policy.

Once the nurses’ concerns went public, management sat down with the nurses and said they would recognize their membership in NYSNA as long as an election was held to ensure that nurses opposed to unionization weren’t facing intimidation or peer pressure. The vote was 92-18 in favor.

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