Lone Star Rebellion- Nearly 2,000 Texas RNs Vote to Join Nation’s Largest Nurses’ Union
Capping a historic two-week sweep that could alter the nation’s labor and political landscape, registered nurses at Valley Regional Medical Center in Brownsville, Tex. Thursday night voted to join the nation’s largest RN union.
The vote culminates a remarkable streak in which more than 1,900 registered nurses in five Texas hospitals voted in secret ballot votes supervised by the National Labor Relations Board, to be represented by the National Nurses Organizing Committee-Texas, an affiliate of the 155,000-member National Nurses United.
RNs at Corpus Christi Medical Center in Corpus Christi, Del Sol Medical Center and Las Palmas Medical Center in El Paso, Rio Grande Regional Hospital in McAllen, also voted in recent days to join NNOC-Texas/NNU. All five hospitals are operated by the nation’s largest hospital system, HCA.
Winning victories in Texas, which has the third most RNs in the U.S., after only California and New York, two states where the majority of RNs are already represented, portends to shake up the politics of a predominantly non-union state where only one private hospital has been previously unionized, Cypress Fairbanks in Houston, also a NNOC-Texas/NNU facility.
NNU leaders called it a milestone in the long held dream of working people to expand representation in the region and organize the South, key steps that are central to promoting the growth of unions and the advance of social reforms in the U.S.
“This is a historic moment for nurses and patients in Texas and the nation,” said NNU Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro. “The Texas RNs have broken through in achieving collective action and representation in Texas and opened a door that will never be closed.”
DeMoro termed the election victories a decisive statement by RNs who are “the canaries in the mines in our healthcare system, the most independent, honest brokers for patients, based on their very real life experience fighting to protect patients at the bedside and to change the healthcare system for all patients and future patients.”
“I am excited that we are uniting with RNs on El Paso and across the country. With NNOC-Texas/NNU our voice will be heard so that we will have the power of collective bargaining rights to protect our profession and our patients,” said Del Sol RN Monica Sanchez.
“I became an RN to be a patient advocate, and through the NNOC and NNU, Corpus Christi RNs can truly put patients first,” said Corpus Christi RN Anna Springer. “I have faith that we will work together to build nurse power and strengthen our voice in the hospital and beyond.”
NNU Organizing Director David Johnson called the Texas hospital wins “the affirmation of the nurses’ movement we have been building in Texas and throughout the nation. It also confirms the hunger for change among Texas nurses.”
Key issues for the Texas nurses at all the hospitals, including improving their ability to advocate for patients, enhanced safe staffing, and upgrading standards for nurses are “common themes for nurses everywhere,” said Johnson. “NNU’s track record in achieving gains in all these areas is a reason for our explosive growth.”
The largest RN union and professional association in U.S. history, NNU has also achieved a string of election wins since its founding in December, 2009 which united the nation’s leading RN organizations, the California Nurses Association/NNOC, Massachusetts Nurses Association, and United American Nurses.
Since December, NNU has now won elections for more than 5,500 RNs in Texas, Nevada, and Illinois. NNU has also sent nurses to Haiti to assist with disaster relief following the island nation’s devastating earthquake in January, and is the sponsor of major nursing reform legislation in Washington and state capitols.
The Texas elections came just days after 1,000 NNU members rallied in Washington DC for patient safety legislation, including national RN-to-patient staffing ratios, whistleblower protection for nurses who expose unsafe hospital conditions, safe patient handling standards, and restored collective bargaining rights for Veterans Affairs RNs.
“This is a special moment,” DeMoro said. “Nurses know we need far more progress on achieving comprehensive healthcare reform, including desperately needed patient safety protections. They are taking power into their own hands to work for change to achieve a better future for their patients, their communities, their families, and themselves, and they will win,” DeMoro said.