Letter: What Mission nurses should consider in union vote

Graphic by Lori Deaton

To unionize or not to unionize — that’s the question facing the nurses of Mission Hospital. Here are three things they should consider before casting their votes:

1. Your vote may be forever. Unions don’t have to stand for reelection, so a yes vote today may last a lifetime. Only 6%  of private-sector union members today have ever actually voted in favor of the union that represents them.

So, what can you do if it turns out the union isn’t representing you the way you want? Not much. While it’s possible to decertify a union, it’s extremely difficult to do so. Workers must get the signatures of 30% of the bargaining unit within a 30-day window that comes up only once every three years, and they can’t collect signatures while employees are on the clock or in work areas. In other words, fat chance.

2. Workplace flexibility and advancement opportunities are limited. Formal benefits like paid time off, flexible schedules and good health insurance are incredibly helpful. But so are flexible working arrangements — especially for working moms with young children.

As the “middleman” between workers and management, union leaders get to pick which workers’ voices get heard and which are muffled. Inhibiting one-on-one communication can make it difficult, if not impossible, to arrange schedule changes or time off to meet urgent, personal needs.

Union contracts also often decouple performance and reward. Seniority-based pay and benefit structures eliminate performance-based promotions and bonuses.

3. Patients’ lives and well-being could be at risk. The NNU regularly calls strikes. Striking nurses lose their regular pay, and the NNU does not appear to have a strike fund to cover lost wages. It does, however, fine nurses who opt to cross the picket line.

Aside from these financial concerns, nurses also worry about what will happen to their patients if they don’t or can’t work. And rightly so. Research shows that the rate of hospital mortality rates is nearly 20% higher among patients admitted during a strike than among patients admitted in nearby nonstriking hospitals at the same time.

The nurses voting at Mission Hospital should know there is likely no going back if NNU wins this election. If the union makes changes they don’t like, denies them flexibility and opportunities, or calls strikes, they will have little recourse. That’s not good for them or their patients.

— Rachel Greszler
Bethesda, Md.

Editor’s note: Greszler reports that she is a research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget.


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10 thoughts on “Letter: What Mission nurses should consider in union vote

  1. dub

    Wow. Blatantly anit-union propaganda from the Heritage foundation- a conservative think tank funded by some of the most repulsive ghouls in the world who want to exploit every penny out of workers for their own profit. Nothing scares these vampires more than organized labor. Go home Rachel, post on your own local paper’s website, we don’t need you here.

    • OakleyGuy

      Yeah, right? You know what’s worse than a nurses union at Mission? HCA owning and running the hospital. But here we are, so the only rational decision for nurses and ultimately the citizens of Asheville is to hope for an overall yes vote to unionize. I don’t work at the hospital, but know a few people who do as nurses, and the overall feeling is HCA has put profit above the health and safety of patients. Nurses are overworked and as a result patient’s care suffers. Also, I agree with Dub…hey Rachel, we don’t care what you think. And Mountain Xpress, what’s the deal with publishing this obvious propaganda from the Heritage Foundation?

      • Tracy Rose

        Xpress does on occasion publish letters to the editor from people outside the area who write about local issues.

        • NFB

          Even if it is just a glorified press release from a special interest advocacy group?

          • Tracy Rose

            This letter seems more like opinion than a press release to me, though “glorified press release” may be in the eye of the beholder.

    • luther blissett

      See, if you work for the Heritage Foundation, billionaires pay you to say “workers should suck it up and deal with the worst employee protections in the developed world” and it’s all tax-deductible. Some of her highlights from this year include “paying $600 unemployment is bad and evil” (when it accidentally helped the working poor more than anything done by either party in decades).

      Given that HCA/Mission is one of the largest employers in the area, pretty much everybody knows someone who works for Mission/HCA, and has heard the (entirely predictable) accounts of what has happened under for-profit corporate ownership. Ms Greszler does not.

    • Conservative Neighbor

      Unions are great for people that are lazy! Go ahead and vote them in and let the hospital pass increase prices onto the consumer/patients.

      • henry

        When will all the new jobs from HCA start trickling down from their profits, so new nurses can be hired to improve patient care. After all, isn’t HCA a great job creator?

      • luther blissett

        A good reminder that whatever bosses paid for a century of union-busting and propaganda, they considered it cheaper than giving their workers fair pay and conditions. It’s like a brain toxin in the South.

        “let the hospital pass increase prices onto the consumer/patients.”

        I mean, there’s a clue there in the word “consumer”, because clearly people in the hospital are consumers the same way people buying a TV are consumers. Oh, wait. But hey, next time you’re at Mission, tell your nurses that you think they’re lazy.

        Mission nurses have very clearly stated their grievances with management: they feel that HCA has mismanaged Covid-19 safety protocols, and that cost-saving staff cutbacks affect their ability to do their jobs properly, risking patient health. Anyone who knows anyone who works in the Mission system will hear tales of how the corporate beancounters are trying to squeeze every last cent of profit from their operations.

        HCA is literally receiving billions in federal Covid aid while paying union-busters $400/hr.


  2. NFB

    It’s interesting that the nurses at Mission never talked about forming a union until HCA took over.

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