Memorial nurses in Modesto reject efforts to unionize

Posted by Nan Austin and Sharon Ghag on June 28, 2014 

Nurses at Memorial Medical Center have rejected union membership after a contentious organizing effort.

Uncertified results released Saturday by the hospital show the vote to remain nonunion was 462, or 57 percent, with 352, or 43 percent, voting for representation by the California Nurses Association. The hospital has about 885 nurses, giving the election a 92 percent turnout.

“My floor was against the union,” said Katie Bellin, a registered nurse in orthopedics. “Everyone started crying after they found out about the vote. We had sparkling cider and cupcakes and cookies.”

The National Labor Relations Board conducted the election Thursday and Friday following a petition filed May 16. The vote count began after 9 p.m., Bellin said, with the results issued after 10 p.m. It was standing room only as the nurses watched the vote count, she said.

Melanie Thompson, a registered nurse who has worked at Memorial for a decade, said CNA is not going away.

“It’s been very tumultuous and very difficult. It was a hard fight,” said Thompson, as she prepared for her night shift in the intensive care unit. “The nurses, we work together and we provide patient care.”

The NLRB is expected to certify the result this week unless a protest is filed.

Union organizers did not immediately return Modesto Bee requests for comment Saturday.

“We are pleased that our nurses choose to remain union-free and have a direct relationship with management,” said Daryn Kumar, Memorial chief executive officer, in a statement.

“We consider this outcome an opportunity to continue working together with them,” said Memorial Chief Nurse Executive Betty Lopez.

Memorial, now owned by the not-for-profit Sutter Health, has never had unions. The hospital was founded in 1948 and has 2,500 employees.

Pro-union nurses said the effort to organize began in earnest after nurses at Sutter Tracy Community Hospital voted to unionize in March 2012. Complaints that Memorial nurses were not allowed to distribute fliers or sign cards registering interest drew NLRB citations during the organizing effort.

Top concerns nurses discussed during the campaign were about nurse-to-patient staffing ratios and nurses being assigned to work in clinical specialties outside their areas of expertise.

The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United represents 185,000 members in 300 medical facilities nationwide, including Doctors Medical Center and the Kaiser Permanente hospitals in Modesto and Manteca.

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