November 9, 2018

Nurses at Two Tucson Hospitals Vote to Unionize

How unions function in right-to-work states like Arizona.

Nurses at two Tucson hospitals, St Mary's and St Joseph's, voted overwhelmingly last month to unionize. Vanessa Barchfield reports on how that decision came about and what that means in a state with historically low union membership.

Fawn Slade is a nurse on the orthopedic floor at St. Joseph’s. She says the efforts to organize started in September when some union representatives met with nurses from both hospitals. Close to 75 percent of the nurses at both St. Joseph’s and St. Mary’s voted to join the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United. Slade said the choice was easy, because the union allows nurses to have their voices heard and to bargain together to ensure better care for their patients.

Barchfield also spoke to labor and employment attorney Barney Holtzman, who explained the appeal of unions and how they function in a right-to-work state like Arizona.

"The employer cannot force or enter into an agreement with a union to say, 'We'll only hire union workers.' And similarly, unions can't force all of the employees to pay union dues," Holtzman said.

The nurses at St Mary's and St Joseph's will now elect leadership then enter contract negotiations with hospital administration. In a statement, Tenet-Healthcare said that it respects the decision to unionize and it will work to reach a mutually beneficial collective bargaining agreement.

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