'We want to be able to come together and be one': Ascension Via Christi St. Francis nurse talks unionization
Shelly Rader has been a nurse at Ascension Via Christi St Francis for 19 years. Even during the peaks of the COVID pandemic, her love for her job didn’t waiver. “I stayed because this is my home, this is my hospital and these are my patients. Wichita is my city," Rader told KAKE.
It’s that love for the job and her patients that led Rader to support and even lead her fellow nurses in unionization efforts. “We as nurses wanted to be come together as one to voice our concerns that we have had.”
St Francis nurses voted last week to unionize with the National Nurses’ Union.
Rader says one the main reasons why is to help with staffing retention and recruitment as well as to be able to advocate more for the nurses already there. However, she says the “the biggest part of this is our patients, the care of our patients.”
Union membership has been declining in the U.S. for a few decades now according to WSU's center for economic development and business research director Jeremy Hill.
However, he says that COVID did galvanize a few sectors to look for better protections. “Nurses have been one of those sectors, teachers have been, in very vulnerable places where they are struggled with wages and time off and expected to do a whole lot more.”
Hill says the current tight labor market makes it easier for a lot of people to negotiate for better pay and benefits without joining a union. “That need for unionization, I think is going to continue to decline because that power dynamic of this tight labor market is going to force it where people can get up and leave quickly."
However, he says there are still benefits that these nurses can get by uniting. “There's a need for them to organize and be able to communicate their needs to an employer."
Senior Vice President of Ascension Kansas Kevin Strecker also released a statement about the union vote saying quote "We are disappointed that the Registered Nurses voted for union representation at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis. We strongly believe we can be most effective working collaboratively without union representation. We respect the voting process and are committed to ensuring it is followed during the vote certification period."