The nurses and healthcare professionals of Berkshire VNA have overwhelmingly chosen to join the MNA as they stand together to improve conditions for patients, co-workers, and the community
PITTSFIELD, Mass. – After trying unsuccessfully to get the Berkshire Visting Nurses Association to act on their concerns about working and patient care conditions, the nurses and healthcare professionals of the Berkshire VNA delivered a letter to Roberta Gale, VP of Community Health Services, on Wednesday, October 6 urging the agency to respect and recognize their decision to join together as a united voice with the Massachusetts Nurses Association.
“An overwhelming majority of Nurses and Healthcare Professionals at the Berkshire VNA have decided that we would like to have a real and independent voice on all decisions that affect us, the work we do and the patients we take care of,” the Berkshire VNA nurses and healthcare professionals wrote in their letter. “We would like to be real partners with you in setting priorities for our work and ensuring a healthy future for Berkshire VNA. To achieve this, we and a majority of our colleagues have signed cards expressing our desire to be represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA).”
Approximately 66 registered nurses, and physical, occupational and speech therapists would be represented by the MNA if Berkshire VNA chooses to voluntarily recognize their union. The VNA is owned by Berkshire Health Systems, which also owns Berkshire Medical Center where the MNA represents approximately 900 registered nurses.
The National Labor Relations Act allows for employers to voluntarily recognize a union based on evidence, which is typically signed union-authorization cards that demonstrate a majority of employees want the union to represent them. If Berkshire VNA does not agree to voluntary recognition by the afternoon of Thursday, October 7, the nurses, and healthcare professionals are prepared to file for a formal election with the National Labor Relations Board.
The Berkshire VNA nurses and healthcare professionals sought to join the MNA after experiencing increasingly challenging working conditions and unpredictable benefits and staff support systems that have negatively impacted morale and their ability to provide the best possible care to patients.
“We have chosen to join together as a union of nurses and healthcare professionals because we are losing good staff due to inflexible and unsustainable working conditions that make it extremely challenging to provide patients the level of care they deserve,” said Emma Mattison, RN, and member of the organizing committee at Berkshire VNA. “I support unionizing the BVNA because I want to make staff here love their jobs as much as our patients love their nurses, therapists, and aides!”
“After spending three years unsuccessfully trying as individuals to advocate for improved conditions with management, we have decided to form our union with the MNA to have a united voice and make real change,” said Tamaryn Clowdus, physical therapist and member of the organizing committee at Berkshire VNA. “I believe with the voices of our nurses and healthcare professionals joined together, we can become the best agency, providing superior patient care while improving our work and life balance.”
“As a nurse, I was always taught to advocate for my patients. At graduation from nursing school, we recited the Nightingale Pledge, which includes a phrase that has stuck with me: ‘To devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care,’” said Sarah Roberts, a registered nurse and member of the organizing committee at Berkshire VNA. “It is that devotion to our patients’ welfare that makes me want a union at our workplace. We also need a more powerful voice at the table for our co-workers and those members of our community who may become patients or who have family in our care.”
Established in 1901, the Berkshire VNA provides comprehensive care to patients of all ages who are recovering from an illness or hospitalization in their own home. The medical needs of Berkshire VNA patients are varied and complex and may include, among other things, post-surgical conditions such as total hip or total knee replacements; stroke; Parkinson's Disease; Multiple Sclerosis; Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS); cardiopulmonary conditions; amputations; and post-trauma care (breaks, fractures).
In recent years, many hospital-based services for patients have shifted to in-home services, making VNAs and their caregivers an essential and ever-expanding part of the healthcare system. Hospitals now move patients back home faster than before as doing so reduces costs and opens in-hospital beds. This has led to a dramatic increase in the size of the region's at-home patient population as well as in the complexity of those patients.
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.