St. Peter's nurses vote to unionize in wake of information leak

Registered nurses have voted to unionize at St. Peter's Health clinics in Helena, Mont.

The vote was 45-14 on Oct. 17 to join the existing Local #13 of the Montana Nurses Association, according to the Daily Montanan. It covers nurses with St. Peter's Medical Group at the Broadway Clinic and the North Clinic. Local #13 of the MNA is already representing acute care nurses at St. Peter's Health.  

"We are excited to have ALL nurses at St. Peter's be included in Local #13," St. Peter's Health clinic nurse Andrea Thies, BSN, RN, said in a news release shared with Becker's. "Nurses deserve to have their wages and benefits managed fairly. We look forward to re-building a trusting relationship with St. Peter's to better serve the people in our community."

St. Peter's Health, in a statement shared with Becker's, said it respects the right of nurses to unionize and will work collaboratively with the union to negotiate a mutually beneficial contract.

"We value our people, and we're committed to collaborations that will create positive change and a rewarding employee experience for our nurses and all of our team members at St. Peter's Health," the statement reads.

The union vote followed an incident connected to the organizing efforts in which nurses' personal information was leaked

St. Peter's Health hired at least one union consultant, Edward Niles Commer, who is commonly referred to as Niles Commer, after nurses at St. Peter's Medical Group, both the Broadway Clinic and the North Clinic, filed with the National Labor Relations Board on Sept. 1 to hold an election to vote on whether to unionize.

St. Peter's Health ended its contract with Mr. Commer after the internal leak of nurses' personal information.

The health system, in a statement shared with Becker's on Oct. 4, described the incident as one "where a document containing sensitive information became accessible beyond the intended recipients. It is our responsibility to safeguard the privacy and well-being of our employees, and as such, we take full responsibility for this incident occurring."

St. Peter's Health also confirmed it is no longer working with any third-party consultants, but said, "The more important issue is that this incident was inconsistent with our values." The organization is conducting an internal investigation and said it will "respond as appropriate based on the findings."

Regarding the investigation, a spokesperson told Becker's on Oct. 19, "We will not be providing further comment on that matter to protect the privacy of our employees."

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