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Nurses Win Bids to Unionize at 2 Sites

Pomona and Burbank hospitals say they accept NLRB ruling and will bargain in good faith.

June 04, 2003|Steve Hymon | Times Staff Writer

The National Labor Relations Board has upheld votes by nurses to unionize at two large area hospitals, giving health-care workers in Southern California another victory against administrators who have bitterly opposed their efforts to organize.

The decisions in the last week certified unions at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center and Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank. In both cases, hospital administrators appealed decisions in favor of the Service Employees International Union to the national level.

Hospital administrators "didn't want the nurses to be empowered and to have a voice and to sit opposite them at the bargaining table," said Jane Johnson, a pro-union nurse who works in St. Joseph's blood donor unit.

"I've worked here for 25 years and I know a lot has changed in medicine," she added, "but I also believe that staffing has been cut and the patients have suffered. This just isn't the quality place that I think it can be."

Administrators at both hospitals, which together employ about 1,300 nurses, said they accept the NLRB's decision and are prepared to bargain in good faith with the union. Nurses at both hospitals will be part of Local 121RN. The SEIU says it represents more than 100,000 nurses nationwide.

"Our goal will be ... to do what is right for our nurses and the future of Providence St. Joseph Medical Center," said Myron Berdischewsky, chief medical officer at the 427-bed hospital, part of Providence Health System.

Kathy Roche, spokeswoman for Pomona Valley Hospital, an independent medical center with 436 licensed beds, said the hospital "still believes that the best way to address issues is directly between the hospital and the associates -- our employees -- but we do respect the NLRB's decision."

At Pomona, nurses voted 393 to 275 in September to organize. At St. Joseph's, the vote was 270 to 223 in favor of organizing.

Nurses have long complained that their workloads have increased in recent years at the same time that their pay has stagnated.

"There hasn't been any reward for long-term employment," Johnson said. "Once you hit the top of the salary scale, that's where you stayed."

Johnson said she is paid about $31 an hour and has not seen a significant pay raise in five years.

Times staff writer Ronald D. White contributed to this report.

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