Labor-state nurses look to union for help

The question of whether nurses at Chino Valley (CA) Medical Center will form a union will go to a vote today and Friday. Some nurses at the center have expressed an interest in unionizing, citing the need to improve staffing and provide better patient care through more time with patients. Sandy Reynolds, a registered nurse at the hospital who supports a nurses union there, said she hopes union representation will help alleviate understaffing.

A national nursing shortage has caused problems in attracting and retaining nurses at hospitals throughout the country.

"With a union, we will be able to collaborate with management to attract and retain more nurses so that every night and every day we have consistent staffing, and we are never short of nurses on the floor," Reynolds said.

Reynolds said unionizing would give nurses the ability to negotiate a contract to allow for benefits that would help in attracting more nurses to the hospital. Currently, Reynolds said the nurses at Chino Valley do not have a retirement plan.

Hospital administrators, who are against the formation of a nurses union, disagree with union supporters over the quality of care at the hospital, citing good customer feedback on quality service and the inability to predict staffing in the emergency room given the unpredictable nature of patient intake.

Dr. James Lally, president and chief medical officer of the Chino Valley Medical Center, said he and the hospital administration support the process but voiced hope that the nurses will vote "no."

"I have the lowest turnover rate of nurses in the Inland Empire," Lally said. "We have the highest retention rate in the Inland Empire. The turnover on registered nurses is minuscule."

In order to unionize, a group of nurses filed paperwork last month with the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election. The election will use secret ballots to poll about 200 nurses as to whether they want to join the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals.

More than 50 percent of the vote is needed to win the election. A tie goes to the employer.

A vote tally will be announced after the election ends Friday.

If a union vote succeeds, the NLRB will issue a certification of representative about 14 days after the election. If the union vote fails, there cannot be another election for a year.

The UNAC/UHCP represents more than 15,000 nurses in Southern California.


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