Fletcher Allen nurses vote to unionize

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(Host) By a nearly 2-to-1 margin, registered nurses at Vermont’s largest hospital have voted to unionize.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) A crowd of Fletcher Allen nurses and their supporters cheered long and loud when a representative of the National Labor Relations Board announced the results late Thursday night.

With 90% of those who could vote casting ballots, the nurses favored a union by a margin of 673 to 345. Tara Risinger is one of the nurses who helped lead the organizing drive. Risinger says she’s looking forward to seeing the nurses concerns addressed in contract negotiations.

(Risinger) “The staffing ratio is probably number one. We want safe staffing. We want the equipment we need to safely do our jobs. We want ways to retain the nurses that we need: benefits, wages, things like that.”

(Zind) Four years ago, Fletcher Allen nurses rejected a union. Risinger says the effort was successful this time because nurses feel the hospital has failed to deliver on promises to respond to their concerns.

Speaking after the vote Thad Krupka, Fletcher Allen’s chief executive officer, acknowledged the hospital hasn’t adequately addressed the nurses issues:

(Krupka) “I think we’ve known for many months that these are some deep-seeded problems or issues that our registered nurses had. I think Fletcher Allen was focused on the financial security of the organization. The unfortunate part is that we didn’t pay enough attention to some of these long standing and deep-seeded issues that the nurses had.”

(Zind) Krupka says the decision to unionize will bring profound changes to Fletcher Allen. The union will now have to organize and elect officers before negotiating teams can begin bargaining.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Burlington.

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