With little fanfare this past week, nurses from Centerpoint Hospital of Independence, MO held a decertification vote. The results 226 to 78 with 24 opting not to vote at all, and the Nurses United Local 5126 (part of the American Federation of Teachers) were ousted as representatives for the RNs at the hospital. The vote took place over two days (April 23 and 24) last week, and the results were a celebrated outcome to a small core group of professional nurses that had coalesced to further professionalism versus unionism for nurses.
I learned about the nurses of Just Let Us Vote, JLUV – www.jluv.org, and emailed the contact for JLUV, Jerilyn McDermed. She responded to my email with her telephone number and I called her and we chatted. She gave the “quick and dirty” version of the history of the unionization of Centerpoint and why she chose to launch a decertification effort. Their path to decertification wasn’t an easy one, they were targeted by members of Nurses United Local 5126, labeled the “misinformed minority”, demeaned by some of the more vociferous pro-union nurses on staff, and found little support in the local media to get their side of the story out. Yet, they persevered and after many months of foot-dragging from the union they got the green light for a decertification vote. Of course the union machine spun the story as if they had been the ones instrumental in allowing the nurses the opportunity to have the vote; and in a way that was true since the union had filed numerous complaints with the NLRB that caused the vote delay. So when the union removed their objections the vote was green lighted, but then again if the union hadn’t initially objected the vote would have taken place much, much sooner.
It’s behavior such as this that makes me suspect the true motivations behind the union’s push for the “Employee Free Choice Act”, better known as EFCA. They extol the virtues of having a majority of employees signing cards to bring in union representation, but when the tables are turned and people sign cards to end union representation then the union fights it tooth and nail. So, it’s apparent to folks like me that the union likes to make full use of the process when it serves them, but they don’t want their opponents to have the same opportunities. Maybe this simple fact is why polls show that up to 80% of union members themselves oppose the passage of EFCA. But, back to Centerpoint.
So, when I came across an article in the Independence Examiner about the upcoming vote I wrote a letter to the editor and it was published on March 31st and distributed throughout the hospital by nurses. Jerilyn shared with me that a pro-union nurse had defaced one of the letters that had been posted, and her response was to place a post-it note by the defaced flyer that asked folks not to write on her flyers, since no one wrote or defaced their flyers. Of course, she wasn’t shocked by such churlish behavior since all too often pro-union nurses will engage in such behavior with the full support of their union local – another reason why professional nurse often eschew unionization.
As the date of the vote approached the Kansas City Star did a write up and its lean was so pro-union that was more of a advertisement then a news story, so I was compelled to write a letter to the editor and contact the Reader’s Representative. He was very nice and said he would have the reporter call me, which I’m sure he did but as of the writing of this post the reporter has yet to call me. I had also left a message in his voice mail myself. Additionally, the letter to the editor reader had still not read my letter nearly three days after submission. In the end, the professional nurses of Centerpoint were able to overcome a pro-union local media and a well funded union local from the AFT to get their message out and the nurses responded with an overwhelming vote of 226 to leave the AFT with only 78 voting to remain with the AFT. Stories covering the recent decertification vote can be found at the Kansas City Star here (http://economy.kansascity.com/?q=node/1931) and the Independence Examiner her (http://www.examiner.net/archive/x126912751/Centerpoint-nurses-vote-down-union)
One more victory in a growing movement by professional nurses to decertify from union representation and retake their voice and right to self-representation.