AUSTIN (KXAN) — Registered nurses at Ascension Seton are voting on whether to unionize. According to the National Labor Relations Board, ballots were mailed out to employees earlier this month and will be counted on September 21.
The Texas Nurses Association gave KXAN some insight on why there is a push to unionize in some parts of the state and the challenges that nurses face.
Can you walk me through what you’re seeing in terms of you know, your organization and nurses you all work with are using efforts to unionize? And why is that?
Cindy Zolnierek, Chief Executive Officer at Texas Nurses Association: You know, I am aware of the effort here at Ascension Seton here in Austin, where they are voting right now on whether to have a union represent nurses. And you know, the last couple of years have been a very trying time for nurses where they face COVID, and just situations that we haven’t experienced before. And it really exacerbated long-standing issues that nurses have had: Adequate staffing, so they could care for their patients; Workplace Violence, which really accelerated during the pandemic; and pay. We saw a lot of around those core issues, be exacerbated during COVID, and nurses are now saying they they need these issues addressed. If they don’t feel they’re being adequately addressed, they may reach out to a union because they’re often promised to resolve those issues. Now, unions can make promises, but it all comes down to what they’re able to negotiate a contract.
We knew at the beginning of the pandemic that burnout was so prevalent, is there any improvement? Are those issues still still with them?
Zolnierek: I think that the issues with burnout, and the trauma, the post-traumatic stress that nurses have experienced… that’s very real. I think a lot of organizations have really put in a lot of support. We’ve all had a wake up call that we need to support our workforce, and that we do have a shortage in our workforce, particularly nurses – there also other health care professions – and that we need to support them. It has improved, but it’s still very real, I think has brought attention to some long standing issues, which is a good thing.