ATHOL, Mass. — In an election held among the 47 registered nurses at Athol Hospital on Friday, RNs voted to join the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United, the state’s largest union of RNs and health care professionals.
Athol Hospital RNs greeted the election results with cheers and hugs after the vote was tallied on Friday evening. The election was conducted at the hospital by the National Labor Relations Board.
The MNA already represents more than 23,000 nurses and health care professionals in 85 health care facilities in Massachusetts and, with the addition of Athol Hospital, it represents nurses in 53 of the state’s 67 acute care hospitals.
“Our goal in forming a union at Athol was first and foremost to ensure that our patients are given the best care possible,” said Denise Raymond, an emergency department nurse at Athol Hospital and a member of the organizing committee. “We made this decision with the best interests of this community and this hospital in mind. As registered nurses we are responsible for the care we provide to our patients and now for the first time we will have a say in how we deliver that care.”
MNA president Donna Kelly-Williams, who works as a labor and delivery nurse at Cambridge Hospital, congratulated the Athol nurses for their courageous effort to stand up for their protected right to advocate for their patients and themselves. “When nurses are organized, patients are the biggest beneficiaries,” said Kelly-Williams.
In the wake of the economic downturn, and the changes in the industry being driven by health care reform, the MNA/NNU reports that its organizing division is fielding a significant increase in calls from non-union nurses. The Athol election follows the addition of the RNs at Stewart Nashoba Valley Medical Center in July, and the addition of the Agawam School Nurses earlier this year.
With the election settled, the Athol Hospital nurses will begin the work of forming their local committee. They will elect members to their bargaining committee, and have already begun soliciting proposals from colleagues about what they would like to negotiate into their first contract that will make Athol the best hospital and workplace that it can be.