Ascension Union Now More Than 1,000 Nurses Strong

Meanwhile, Ascension threatens disciplinary action for strike

Nurses protest in 2022 (Photo by John Anderson)

National Nurses United grew this week after 96% of nurses voted in 225 new members to the Ascension Seton nurses’ union.

Those 225 join 825 already unionized nurses who have been negotiating a contract with Ascension since they unionized with 72% of nurses voting in favor in the fall of 2022. Crucially, the new members are residents and fellows, who were previously barred from joining.

Amanda Pierce Cheng, an RN in the ICU who graduated from residency in June, said she was aware of union activity during the residency and “very much wanted to join in” but was unable until she graduated. “Residents and fellows work side by side seamlessly with every other RN in the hospital; they participate in the same patient care, they are held up to the same standard [as RNs]. We’re not separated by any means. So anything that I experienced in the past year and a half I’ve been there is the same as what a new graduate experiences – shortages of vital equipment and just regular patient care, things like gowns.”

Residents and fellows stepping into the working environment of a hospital for the first time are also stepping into a tense relationship with their managers: NNU organized two strikes at Seton in 2023, both of which were met with lockouts by Ascension. After the most recent strike in December, some nurses were called into a meeting with management facing potential disciplinary action. Ascension declined to comment on personnel-related matters but have not followed through on any discipline yet. During those meetings, unionized nurses passed out flyers explaining their demands to patients and visitors to the hospital.

Despite the tension with management, “the sense that I got from most resident fellows I had interacted with was that they were excited and they felt empowered by being a part of the union,” Cheng said. “I knew that my voice would now have more power behind it. And from past experiences, I feel like unionized places have stronger retention, stronger positive outcomes for the employees, for the people that they’re serving.”

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