UPDATE: March 1, 2022: The nurses voted in favor of keeping the union in a 302-133 vote and will stay represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, according to a Monday release.
- Nurses at Tenet's St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts, are voting on whether to decertify the labor union that represents them following a 10-month strike last year, according to a statement from the Massachusetts Nurses Association.
- The National Labor Relations Board mailed ballots to 680 nurses who work at the hospital and are union members, and they have until Feb. 25 to return their ballots with a vote tally scheduled to take place Feb. 28, according to MNA.
- The union said it's confident it will win the vote and that the effort is being driven by a minority of nurses backed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. The hospital declined to provide a comment.
Nurses at St. Vincent Hospital spent most of last year on the picket line in a bid for better staffing and wages to quell what they described as long-standing issues worsened by the pandemic.
Some of their requests were granted nearly 10 months later when the hospital and nurses ratified a new contract, but those gains could be erased if nurses vote in favor of decertifying the union, MNA said in a release.
"Without a union, there is no guarantee or legal protection to ensure the nurses can keep the wages, benefits and staffing levels they just achieved," MNA said.
If the union is decertified, the hospital wouldn't be obligated to honor the terms of the new agreement and the nurses would lose their legal means to stop the hospital from changing those terms, MNA said.
The nurses overwhelmingly ratified the new contract agreement in January in a 487-9 vote, and it includes improvements to nurse staff levels and wages and benefits, according to MNA. That's why it's confident it will win the vote and continue representing nurses at the hospital, MNA said.
Employees represented by a labor union can vote to decertify the union or replace it with a different one by getting at least 30% of employees to sign cards or a petition and asking the NLRB to conduct an election, according to the agency.
A majority of votes cast must be in favor of representation, or the union will be decertified, according to NLRB.
According to a release from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a St. Vincent Nurse submitted a decertification petition to the NLRB in January with hundreds of signatures from his coworkers.
Another St. Vincent nurse who is not an MNA member filed charges with the NLRB in January, alleging she received a bill for union dues for a period during the strike when no contract was in effect.
Both of those nurses were provided with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which publicly states its mission is to "eliminate coercive union power."