As a former labor negotiator for Sylvania, I would like to share my thoughts regarding the recent union vote by Mission nurses. Ever since the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which defined the playing field for collective bargaining, the conventional wisdom for corporate management has been to do whatever can be done to stretch out the time between (a) the date many of the workers petition for a union and (b) the date all workers vote for or against a union. The thinking is that the initial burst of energy from workers will dissipate and that management has more time to hire anti-union consultants, plan anti-union communications and control the message throughout the union campaign.
In Mission’s case, it appears to me that HCA management used COVID as an excuse to lengthen the time to a vote from weeks to months. Unfortunately for them, I think the strategy backfired. Why? Because Mission is on the front line of the virus. Because the nurses are the heroes. Because every extra day the nurses had to tell their truth carried much more weight than the conventional anti-union messages. Maybe the virus lasted longer than HCA thought it would.
What will happen now? A union contract will be negotiated. I predict that, post-contract, some aspects of hospital operations will move more slowly and with less flexibility than before. I also predict that nurses will earn a higher hourly rate and will be able to work in an environment with higher nurse-to-patient ratios. It seems to me that Mission’s nurses have won a historic victory, one that will have ripple effects throughout North Carolina and the South.
— Jim Stokely
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