SALEM, Mass—Last night, registered nurses of North Shore Medical Center/Salem Hospital in Salem, and its North Shore Pediatric Psychiatric Unit at the Hunt Center in Danvers voted 354 to 7 in favor of union representation by the Massachusetts Nurses Association. The National Labor Relations Board supervised the secret ballot election with voting conducted at both campuses, and the final tally tabulated at 6 p.m.
With the successful vote to join the MNA, the 570 NSMC/Salem nurses stand to garner greater regional clout as they join other nurses on the North Shore who are represented by the MNA at a number of hospitals, including Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport, Lawrence General Hospital, Merrimack Valley in Haverhill and more than 500 nurses working at Northeast Health Corporation’s campuses at Beverly Hospital, Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester and the Hunt Center.
The NSMC/Salem nurses were previously represented by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME Council 93).
"We are thrilled to become members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association," said Fran O’Connell, RN, the long-time president of the nurses’ local at Salem Hospital. "The MNA is a professional union that can offer nurses significant clinical and nursing practice resources as well as their expertise in collective bargaining. This is an organization run by nurses for nurses and health care professionals that has led the fight to pass legislation to improve staffing conditions in hospitals and to stop dangerous practices, such as mandatory overtime."
According to Julie Pinkham, executive director of the MNA, "With this vote, the North Shore has become a true strong-hold of MNA power and nurse activism. This election provides a tremendous opportunity for nurses in this region to work together for improved working conditions and safe staffing, not only for nurses, but more importantly, for the patients who seek care here."
In additional to the regional strength, the MNA will provide the Salem nurses, Pinkham also points to MNA’s long-time presence as the union representative at nearly all the hospitals in the Partners Health Care System, which owns Salem Hospital. Partners facilities represented by MNA include Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Faulkner Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Center and Newton-Wellesley Hospital. The nurses at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Dana Farber are among the highest paid nurses in the nation. Nurses at Faulkner Hospital recently negotiated strong language to prevent workplace violence, an important issue for the nurses at Salem Hospital, who have suffered a number of assaults in recent years. Massachusetts General Hospital is the only facility that remains non union.
While other unions are losing members, with the Salem election, the MNA will now represent nearly 23,000 nurses in 86 health care facilities in the Commonwealth and throughout New England, including 52 of the state’s 67 acute care hospitals. It is the largest union of registered nurses in the state and the third largest state nurses’ union in the nation. The MNA continues to receive inquiries from nurses in all corners of the state, as well as from across the Massachusetts border, from hospitals in Connecticut and New Hampshire, who are interested in forming a union.
Founded in 1903, the MNA is responsible for the creation of Nurse Practice Act and the RN license designation, developed the first uniform curriculum for the education of nurses and wrote the first code of ethics for nurses. MNA has passed or helped pass nearly ever state law governing nursing practice, including the law allowing nurses to unionize in Massachusetts. It currently is leading the effort to pass legislation that would make Massachusetts only the second state in the nation to require hospitals to establish and adhere to safe, minimum RN-to-patient ratios, which is key to improving patient care and to ending an exodus of nurses from hospital nursing due to the poor working conditions.
The MNA boasts a membership driven organization with the best staff to bargaining unit ratio in the nation, with one bargaining agent/associate director responsible for no more than six facilities. Its focus on grassroots mobilization and years of expertise in collective bargaining by and for RNs has helped the MNA to set landmark contract language in several areas, including language to prevent mandatory overtime (now in several contracts), prevent the replacement of nurses with lesser qualified personnel, limit nurses from performing non-nursing duties, prevent unnecessary movement of nurses to areas where they are not competent to practice safely and language to establish safe staffing guidelines.
The MNA is also a recognized leader in improving workplace safety and health conditions in the health care industry, having drafted and passed a needlestick injury prevention bill and having just filed new legislation that would call for measures to prevent workplace violence, as well as a bill to prevent back injuries for nurses. Last fall, the MNA became only the second state nurses association in the nation to sign an alliance agreement with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to provide education and training to health care employers and employees to help protect workers from harm.