Nurses vote to unionize at 3 Montana healthcare facilities

A majority of nurses and other employees voted to unionize in a two-day election July 11-12 at three medical facilities in the Kalispell Regional Healthcare system, according to The Daily Inter Lake.

Five hundred and seventy-one employees cast ballots out of 650 eligible voters, of which 372, or 65 percent, voted to unionize. The three centers are Brendan House and The HealthCenter, both based in Kalispell, and Kalispell Regional Medical Center, in Lakeside. All nurses must now pay union dues, regardless of their vote, since Montana is not a right-to-work state. 

Nurses say they voted in favor of unionization to better advocate for patient safety and for their own contributions and insights, according to a press release from the union, Service Employees International Union 1199NW.

Kalispell Regional officials strongly opposed unionization. "I am disappointed that this pathway was chosen over what I believe to be the better approach of having a direct working relationship with our nurses," said Craig Lambrecht, president and CEO of Kalispell Regional Healthcare. 

The vote to unionize comes months after Kalispell Regional settled a $24 million whistleblower lawsuit in the fall of 2018, which some say caused trust issues between staff and management. The Montana Nurses Association also sued Kalispell Regional months later for allegedly impeding employees' efforts to unionize, but they dropped the charges after the National Labor Relations Board found no evidence for the allegations.

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