Saint Vincent replacement nurses file petition to decertify union

Permanent replacement nurses hired by Worcester, Mass.-based Saint Vincent Hospital during a strike have filed a petition to officially decertify the Massachusetts Nurses Association as the union representing nurses at the hospital, according to the Telegram & Gazette

The move comes after the union and hospital reached a tentative agreement Dec. 17 to end a nine-month strike. Nurses at the hospital have agreed to stop picketing until the Jan. 3 vote on a labor deal. 

C. Richard Avola, a permanent replacement nurse at the hospital and leader of the petition effort, told the Telegram & Gazette: "The MNA did not have our patients' or community's interest in mind, they just did what they wanted and did not see the damage that they have done to our community over the past nine months. A lot of us can understand the strike and agree to it, but for a month or two. During a pandemic you come back; let's care for the members of the community the way we should." 

Mr. Avola said permanent replacement nurses and nurses who crossed the picket line during the strike have signed the petition, which was assigned a case number by the National Labor Relations Board on Dec. 21. According to the NLRB website, the board must consider the validity of the petition and whether it meets the signature threshold requirement (at least 30 percent of workers in a unit). If deemed valid, the board would schedule a decertification election. 

In a statement shared with Becker's, the Massachusetts Nurses Association said it had "little comment on the situation except to say that we are focused on moving to ratify the historic agreement we just reached … which includes significant improvements in staffing, wages and benefits for all nurses. The ratification vote is set for Jan. 3 and after a successful vote, the nurses look forward to the opportunity to return to the bedside to provide the best care possible for our patients and our community." 

The union added that it is surprised some nurses "would want to pursue this avenue as, if successful, they would lose any and all union rights, including the legal right to enforce any of the terms and benefits in their current contract and the new agreement." 

Saint Vincent Hospital, owned by Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, also issued a statement, saying, "The hospital respects the legal right of its nurses to choose whether or not they wish to be represented by a union." 

The nurses strike began March 8, and a sticking point was the union's demand for striking nurses to return to work in their previous roles. Under the agreement, striking nurses can resume their previous positions, and replacement nurses hired during the strike will keep their roles, too. 

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