St. Mary’s nurses hold unionization rally

Nurses employed at St. Mary’s Hospital say they want to join the NY State Nurses Association union in order have more say about their working conditions and their ability to provide patient care. Nurses along with various other area supporters rallied in front of the hospital building this morning at 9:00am. Organizers say that an “overwhelming majority” of nurses at the hospital have signed union authorization cards. A small group of nurses entered the building at the beginning of the rally to ask St. Mary’s President and CEO Vic Guilianelli for the hospital administration to voluntarily agree to recognize the union and begin negotiations on a contract. According to union representatives, that recognition was not given. Their next step is to file a petition asking the National Labor Relations Board to facilitate an election.

According to a press release from the NYSNA, nurses at St. Mary’s want to join their union because of “complaints of inadequate staffing, unilateral changes that have damaged nurse morale, and a lack of hospital respect for their voice in patient care.”

A letter signed by approximately 20 registered nurses organized under the title of the St. Mary’s Nurses Organizing Committee, called upon Giulianelli to recognize their union through a mutually agreeable, neutral third-party. However the letter goes on to say, “While we hope you will save the hospital time and resources by acknowledging our majority in a timely manner, we are also filing for a union election with the Nation Labor Relations Board to ensure we won’t face undue delays.”

Several nurses spoke at the rally. Courtney Wieczenski, an RN who has worked in the intensive care unit at St. Mary’s for seven years said, “We work hard everyday to provide the best care possible, but it’s been difficult over the past many years as we’ve been asked to do more with less…my husband Kevin is also a nurse here, we enjoy the community, we are pro-hospital, pro-St. Mary’s.”

Michael Rodacker, an emergency room nurse for five years said, “We love the city, we love St. Mary’s. It’s important to me [to have] the tools to provide the best care possible while ensuring that nurses have the opportunity to build fulfilling careers here that will strengthen the community.”

Cyndi Gendron, a 23 year veteran employee of St. Mary’s said, “I’m proud to be a nurse. This is a wonderful place, a home to some of the best people I’ve ever known. We are a tight-knit family. We’ve served this community proudly…Recent events led us [to discuss] the future of care at St. Mary’s hospital…we’ve seen a lot of changes which have been detrimental to patient’s care and damaging [to] our profession. The future of St. Mary’s should be decided by all of us here, including the community and the care givers.”

NY State Assembyman Angelo Santabarbara sent a letter of support which was read by one of his staff members. Approximately a dozen doctors at St. Mary’s also signed a letter in support of the unionization effort.

Town of Palatine Supervisor and Director of the NY State Labor-Religion Coalition Sara Niccoli said, “We have a choice today, to stand on the side of big business, to stand on the side of the wealthy, or stand on the side of the people of our community. And ultimately the answer is very obvious, we need to stand with the nurses. I just hope that St. Mary’s administration sees the value of workers organizing, and lets this process go through smoothly and quickly.”

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.