AUSTIN (KXAN) — A national union is celebrating a successful vote this week by 800 Ascension Seton Medical Center nurses to officially join its ranks.
The National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United announced in a news release Thursday that nurses from Ascension Seton voted — with 72% in favor — to now become part of the largest nurses’ union in the country. In its statement, the union explained, “Nurses said they formed a union to win improved patient care standards and strong contracts, and they have seen NNOC/NNU’s proven track record of doing just that in Texas and throughout the country.”
Matthew Clark, who works in the intensive care unit, said Thursday he’s looking forward to returning to the job next week as a union nurse.
“What made me support the effort for joining the union is really the aspect of having a real voice in the workplace,” Clark said, “and allowing us to be able to have a real impact in our working conditions so that we can improve them.”
KXAN reached out Thursday morning to Ascension Seton for comment about this unionization effort and will update this story once the health system shares any reaction.
Once the vote this week is ratified, the union said the Ascension Seton nurses will create a bargaining committee and begin working to negotiate their first contract with hospital administrators. There’s no timeline available yet on when that all will happen.
According to the union, nurses said they’d like to work with the hospital to address issues like short-staffing, recruitment and retention.
“I think the deteriorating work conditions — especially through the COVID crisis and pandemic and the hemorrhaging of staff that we had, with the minimal retention efforts that our facility was trying to make for them — really just put us to the breaking point where we said something’s got to change,” Clark added.
This vote comes at a time when other workers in Central Texas have pushed to unionize recently, including at several Starbucks locations in Austin as well as Tiff’s Treats. It’s part of a rising trend according to Greg Cumpton, who researches union efforts as co-director of the Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources at the University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs.
“There is actually a lot more organizing happening,” Cumpton said. “There’s been an increase, I think, something like 57% of applications to the National Labor Board to go through this process.”
He expects inflation and a tight job market to possibly spur even more mobilization for unions.
“This really provides and puts a lot of power with workers,” he said, “and so unionizing really provides them the opportunity here to see those increases in pay and benefits they really need.”