2nd Ascension hospital in Kansas authorizes strike

Members of the National Nurses Organizing Committee, an affiliate of National Nurses United, have voted to authorize a strike at Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph hospital in Wichita, Kan.

The union represents 300 nurses at St. Joseph, according to a news release from NNOC/NNU. The union also represents more than 650 nurses at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis in Wichita, where workers also recently authorized a strike. St. Francis and St. Joseph are part of St. Louis-based Ascension.

Ninety percent of voting union members voted in favor of authorizing a strike at St. Joseph, according to the union release. Nurses at St. Joseph voted to unionize in March and have been in contract negotiations with management.

The union contends that during negotiations, management has not agreed to a strong contract that would adequately address issues such as safe staffing and nursing staff recruitment.  

"We have a staffing crisis at our hospital because management refuses to get serious about nurse recruitment and retention," Marvin Ruckle, RN, said in the union release. "We know a strong union contract is the best way to address this, and we're prepared to show management that we'll fight for our patients at the table and on the strike line."

In a statement shared with Becker's, hospital management said it continues to bargain in good faith "to come to a mutually beneficial agreement on an initial contract that supports all and will further our goal of providing safe, compassionate care to those we serve."

Management also said it respects St. Joseph workers' right to participate in a strike authorization vote, but also said it is disappointed in the vote given that there has been only one bargaining session thus far and more are scheduled through the end of August.

A strike authorization vote does not mean a strike will occur. The union would provide a 10-day strike notice before such action is taken. 

Hospital management said it has not received a notice for St. Joseph or St. Francis, but should it receive official notification, there is a contingency plan in place "to ensure our patients experience no disruption in care or service."

Nurses at Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas, have also voted to authorize a strike.

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